If analysts had to characterize the first GOP presidential primary debate, it’s safe to say the candidates struggled to stand out, but things did get spirited at times and they did take shots at each other in Milwaukee.
Ron DeSantis was at the center of the debate stage, but political analysts say he wasn’t at the center of the evening.
News4JAX political analyst and head of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Rick Mullaney said it wasn’t a breakout moment for the Florida governor.
“He had some good moments,” Mullany said. “On crime, for example, he talked about Florida hitting a 50-year low in crime. And he talked about George Soros backed prosecutors in Florida. Two of whom he removed. And that got loud applause.”
Then there’s the new kid in town — Vivek Ramaswamy — who is expected to be the wild card. The 38-year-old quickly learned that fire brings fire.
“He lit the fuse,” Mullaney said. “Last night he (Ramaswamy) said everybody on this stage is bought and paid for — a very disparaging remark for everybody on that stage. He called them all professional politicians. He said they were ‘Super Pac puppets.’ Then he pretended he wasn’t attacking them. Well, that fire drew fire. You had Vivek in a battle with Chris Christie, with Mike Pence and with Nikki Haley.”
Debate moderator Bret Baier of Fox News called Donald Trump the “elephant not in the room.” The former president skipped the debate and instead gave an interview to Tucker Carlson that aired on the social media site ‘X,’ formerly known as Twitter. Some say that gave the debate the feel of an undercard in boxing.
There was one issue that stood out among the candidates as they grappled with the best way to approach abortion rights. It seems it may be a very vulnerable issue for the GOP in the general election.