Eight GOP presidential candidates sparred at the inaugural 2024 debate, aiming to position themselves behind the absentee front-runner, Donald Trump. Trump’s strategy included a pre-taped interview to divert viewership, leaving rivals to target one another to emerge as alternatives.
The debate showcased the formidable challenge of dethroning Trump from his leading role. The debate’s highlights featured a dramatic exchange involving Vivek Ramaswamy, a rising tech entrepreneur in the polls, facing criticism from experienced contenders.
Ramaswamy’s outsider status drew fire, with rivals like former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie questioning his readiness. Ramaswamy responded by casting himself as an uncorrupted candidate and criticized Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as a “super PAC puppet.” He also adopted an isolationist stance on the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
Trump’s absence allowed his rivals to exchange views, with the interview accumulating millions of views on social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter). Trump’s interview remained in line with familiar themes, such as election claims and criticisms of President Joe Biden.
Trump’s legal challenges overshadowed the debate, impacting his potential criminal charges and his rivals’ stance on his potential nomination. Despite Trump’s absence, he maintained significant support among Republican voters, leaving contenders navigating a complex landscape.
Candidates also criticized Biden’s economic policies, discussing national decline and reversing “Bidenomics.” They also addressed abortion, with Pence, DeSantis, and Haley sharing differing views on a federal approach.
The debate showcased the intricate dynamics of the 2024 Republican primary race, with contenders striving to make their mark amidst Trump’s absence and the diverse issues they face.