The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

GOP debate features 8 hopeful candidates, excludes Trump

Photo courtesy of Win McNamee / Getty Images / TNS
Republican presidential candidates, from left to right, former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy participate in the first debate of the GOP primary season hosted by FOX News at the Fiserv Forum on Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Eight hopeful Republican presidential candidates took the stage in Milwaukee on Wednesday evening for the first official debate of the 2024 primary election season. The debate was broadcasted at 8 p.m. CDT on Fox News. 

Wednesday’s debate notably excluded the party’s widely projected frontrunner, former President Donald Trump, who surrendered in his fourth criminal charge of the year on Thursday. 

The former president instead gave a pre-taped interview with Tucker Carlson, which was posted on Wednesday night to X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter.

Ronald Brownstein, a senior editor at The Atlantic, wrote that Trump’s lead in national GOP primary polls — which averages at about 40 percentage points according to RealClearPolitics — reinforces his position as the clear central figure in the field. 

Brownstein made a comparison between the GOP primary field and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” a Tom Stoppard play based on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

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    “Stoppard’s story focuses on … minor figures in ‘Hamlet,’” Brownstein wrote. “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern wait and wander, distant from the real action.”

    Brownstein likened the two-hour-long discussion between eight of the field’s stragglers to the spirited arguments between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, stating that “their words (were) largely stripped of meaning by the absence of the central protagonist in their drama.”

    Among participants in Wednesday’s debate were Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Chris Christie, Doug Burgum and Asa Hutchinson. 

    Ron Desantis

    A once-outspoken Donald Trump supporter, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis trails the former president in the GOP field by around 40 points according to most national opinion polls. As of Monday, DeSantis was raking in around 14% of Republican voter support according to the RCP average.

    In Wednesday’s debate, DeSantis cited his state’s relatively minimal response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a personal success, targeting former Vice President Mike Pence and the Trump administration for their economic response to the national emergency. 

    “In Florida, we led the country out of lockdown, and we kept our state free and open,” the governor said.

    Vivek Ramaswamy

    Vivek Ramaswamy, a former biotechnology executive, has marketed himself as the “anti-woke” outsider.

    According to Reuters, the formerly Libertarian Ramaswamy is a self-described “American nationalist” and, despite being Hindu himself, supports a national identity based around “Judeo-Christian values.” 

    Ramaswamy has gained traction on social media, a process that was expedited by the emergence of a viral video featuring the candidate rapping to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”

    The presidential hopeful occupies third place in the RCP average of national polls. According to Reuters, the multimillionaire is poised to overtake second place contender DeSantis.

    According to a CNBC recap of Wednesday’s debate, Ramaswamy “stole the spotlight” and was the target of 11 attacks from his competitors. 

    Mike Pence

    Former Vice President Mike Pence appeared at Wednesday’s debate and, according to NBC, had the most speaking time of the candidates — coming in at over 11 minutes. 

    Pence was Trump’s running mate in 2020 but has expressed his ideological divergence with the former president in the current election season.

    “The American people deserve to know that the president asked me, in his request that I reject or return votes unilaterally — a power that no vice president in American history had ever exercised or taken — he asked me to put him over the Constitution,” Pence said during the debate.

    In a post to Truth Social following the debate, Trump called this a “FAKE STORY” and asserted that he never requested that Pence act in violation of the Constitution. 

    Nikki Haley

    Trump-era United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley mentioned the former president by name six times during the debate, the highest incidence of all participants, according to NBC

    During her tenure as U.N. ambassador, Haley was reprimanded for retweeting a political endorsement in violation of the Hatch Act. Haley also led the withdrawal of the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Council, a move that has been criticized by human rights organizations.

    Prior to her appointment to the Trump cabinet, Haley was governor of South Carolina. 

    Tim Scott

    South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott was also in attendance on Wednesday evening.

    Scott is the only Black Republican in the U.S. Senate, according to Politico.

    During the debate, Scott joined his competitors in criticizing President Joe Biden’s economic policy, citing inflation and government spending as failures of the current administration.

    Chris Christie

    Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, alongside former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, was one of two candidates at the debate who said that he would not come out in support of former President Trump should he win the Republican nomination. 

    “Someone has to stop normalizing this conduct,” Christie said, eliciting a noisy reaction from the crowd. “Booing is allowed, but it does not change the truth.”

    Christie also notably accused Ramaswamy of sounding like “ChatGPT” in his arguments.

    According to Politico, Christie told a group of attendees that he suspected Trump was afraid of him.

    Asa Hutchinson

    In an X post following the debate, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said that his “experience and record are second to none in the GOP field.”

    According to Politico, both Hutchinson and fellow contender Doug Burgum met the minimum number of unique donors for Wednesday’s debate stage by paying college students $20 in cash or gift certificates in exchange for each friend or family member they persuaded to donate at least one dollar to their campaigns. 

    “I believe that I am the right time for America, the right candidate for our country and its future,” Hutchinson said in his campaign announcement on ABC’s “This Week.”

    Doug Burgum

    North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum participated in the debate following an injury to his Achilles tendon. 

    Prior to his election to public office, Burgum worked in business. The candidate sold his $1.1 billion tech company, Great Plains Software, to Microsoft in 2001. 

    According to CNN, the candidate is basing his campaign around issues including the economy, energy and national security.


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    About the Contributor
    Lisa Chasanov, Managing Editor for Reporting
    Howdy! My name is Lisa, my game is delivering quality news to your phone screen, coffee table and recycling bin. Since fall 2022, I have had the honor of writing, editing and often-unsuccessfully pitching content for The Daily Illini. During my time at the 152-year-old news source, I have served as a reporter at our news desk, summer editor and assistant news editor. Most recently, after a rewarding year of bringing you hard-hitting stories such as “Uncut: Dissecting Circumcision” and “‘Surf’s Up’ could be the film of the summer,” I have taken over as managing editor for reporting. In my free time, you can find me performing open heart surgery in dark alleys, communicating telepathically with small woodland creatures and engaging in otherwise dubious activities. If you would like to summon me for any reason, you can find me at [email protected]. Good Yard. Stay tuned for more.