The first Republican presidential debate was held Wednesday(8/23/23) night in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Eight Republican presidential candidates squared off on several issues, among them education, economy, abortion, and Ukraine. One of the most contentious exchanges came when the former president’s legal woes were raised. The candidates were asked whether they would support Donald Trump, who skipped the debate, as the party’s nominee even if he was convicted of a crime. Only two candidates, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson failed to raise their hands in support of the former president. All the candidates had to sign a loyalty pledge to participate in the debate. They all agreed to support the eventual nominee.
Instead of participating in the debate, Trump taped an interview with Tucker Carlson. The taped interview was released to coincide with the presidential debate. Although Trump steered clear of the debate, CBS released a News Poll on Sunday with Trump garnering the support of 62% of Republican primary voters. Ron DeSantis, the Governor of Florida, came in second, earning the support of 16%.
The candidates were asked to raise their hands if they would not support increased funding for the war in Ukraine. Only DeSantis and Ramaswamy raised their hands. The two were in unison, saying that more American resources should be channeled to the U.S. – Mexico border instead of Ukraine, adding that Europe should be more involved. However, Pence, Haley, and Christie voiced their support for Kyiv.
The federal law banning abortion was heavily discussed because it is a key issue in the 2024 general election. Haley characterized herself as pro-life, citing that abortion is personal. She urged fellow candidates to be honest with the American people.
DeSantis said he believes in the culture of life, affirming that he would sign the bill into law. Pence and Scott were in support of the 15-week limit. According to Pence, banning abortion after 15 weeks is a good idea. However, Burgum opposed the federal law outlawing abortion, citing that each state should decide for its people. Burgum believes that the people should be accorded their freedom and liberty.
Although Trump skipped the debate, he was the main spectacle of the debate, proving that he is the man to beat for the ticket.