I opted to watch the Fox News GOP Presidential Debate instead of the Tucker Carlson/ Donald Trump interview last night. A few observations:
- The move by multiple candidates to target Vivek Ramaswamy was unexpected. Why did they do this? First, he is rising in various polls at the expense of Ron DeSantis. Second, he is a young version of Donald Trump. It appears, however, that he was most popular with the crowd among those candidates present.
- Ron DeSantis performed reasonably well on most questions and seemed to have considerable audience support. There were a couple of uncomfortable moments. He has been scarred by his campaign performance, his associations with the GOP establishment/donors, his stance on Ukraine and his history of globalism evidenced by his previous support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is all very unfortunate because his performance as Florida governor has been very good overall.
- South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and North Dakota Douglas Burgum both gave uninspiring, weak, milquetoast performances although Burgum was fairly solid on China.
- Nikki Haley stylistically was good overall but the content of her speech was pretty awful. She was terrible on abortion and overall is positioning herself as a national security conservative. She seemed to have a lot of support from the GOP women in the arena. I hope Trump or whoever the eventual nominee turns out to be does not name her as the vice presidential pick.
- Former Vice President Mike Pence is strong on abortion, but is fairly pathetic on nearly everything else. The fact that he led Trump’s Covid response and protected Fauci is a liability. He has, like Haley, adopted the neoconservative/neoliberal position on Ukraine. If he were nominated, he would lose the general election.
- Two candidates in particular drew boos from the crowd– Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson. These are both moderate GOP establishment former governors. Christie is particularly obnoxious. I expect and hope neither will be going anywhere.
- Ramaswamy’s persona was that of an energizer bunny. His relative youth stood in sharp contrast to all the other candidates. The content of his speech was strong and he even spoke of the concept of national identity. This was curious because he is Indian-American and this topic is generally considered unacceptable in GOP circles. I have my reservations about this young man that I will explain at a later date.
My overall impression is that DeSantis was the most credible president among them although he has certain liabilities; and I am unsure he can win.
Here is the big question. In the event Trump is dealing with a criminal conviction next year, I expect the institutional GOP will move away from him quickly and try to sink his nomination. He would not have sufficient time to appeal before the convention. In that event, who is chosen? There were many faces in this crowd of candidates; but there was no obvious person who has all the right ideas, who presents the right package, and who can win in November.