MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – AUGUST 23: Republican presidential candidates, Vivek Ramaswamy (L) and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley participate in the first debate of the GOP primary season hosted by FOX News at the Fiserv Forum on August 23, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Eight presidential hopefuls squared off in the first Republican debate as former U.S. President Donald Trump, currently facing indictments in four locations, declined to participate in the event. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Nikki Haley was incensed by Vivek Ramaswamy for mentioning that Haley’s daughter is on Tik Tok. The remark summoned echoes of “Keep my wife’s name out of your mouth” spoken by Will Smith at the Oscars (followed by a physical slap). There is no love lost between Haley and Ramaswamy.
Ramaswamy also attacked the moderators, which was uncalled-for. It was especially lame when the moderators were Lester Holt, Kristin Welker of “Meet the Press,” and Hugh Hewitt. Viviswamy suggested that Tucker Carlson would have been better, which is ludicrous.
To me, the candidate who seemed spectacularly weak in his responses was Tim Scott. He seems to have forgotten that this country was founded on the principle of separation of church and state. He constantly promoted the anti-abortion movement, made questionable remarks about the Social Security age to retire, and basically kept talking about faith and a return to faith as the panacea for all things he disliked in the United States.
Chris Christie is usually one of the two best debaters on the stage (Haley being the other). My husband and I felt we could live with a President Christie. That is a very unlikely possibility, since Christie’s attacks on DJT have made him anathema to the GOP base, which seems increasingly unhinged these days.
Hogan Gidley, former deputy press secretary to Trump, made the valid point, post debate, that DJT needed to be here to debate, since he is the front-runner.
Ron DeSantis comes across as someone who doesn’t like to smile much and is smug as hell. He was better after the debate was over, when he seemed less like such a dim bulb and answered questions posed by the talking heads of NBC. His many dictator-style actions in Florida make him one of those politicians that you just know you are going to have to suffer through whatever he is saying when he is onstage. Remember when he chided teen-agers wearing masks during the pandemic? (Explains why Florida had one of the worst Covid death rates in the nation and was losing 240 people a day.) DeSantis has all the earmarks of a tin-pot dictator, and one gets the feeling that he is going to get worse before he gets better.
The moderators tonight did a better job than in the previous GOP debate. DeSantis did better than he has done in the past and Nikki Haley continued to do well, but she is female. It is difficult to imagine the GOP of today putting a woman at the top of the ticket. (The Democrats tried, and look how well that turned out.)
Mary Katharine Ham, a conservative columnist interviewed in the Spin Room, said that Nikki Haley’s 25-year-old daughter was grown and her parents were no longer in charge of her social media presence, so her Tik Tok usage should not have been mentioned by Vivek Ramaswamy. Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley seem to not like each other AT ALL. DeSantis and Haley are “separating themselves” from the rest of the pack, according to the spin room experts.
There is now a shot on my television screen of DeSantis trying to smile. He really does not look comfortable smiling. Ever.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 19, 2022. (Photo by Wade Vandervort / AFP) (Photo by WADE VANDERVORT/AFP via Getty Images)
Carlos Curbelo, a Republican former Florida Congressman, pretty much discounted Christie and Scott as potential nominees. He acknowledged that tonight’s debate was much more substantive. Curbelo and another spin-meister had no real answer for “Why did Viviswamy feel it was a good election technique to attack the moderators?” To me, Viviswamy, like DJT, just likes to stir things up. Chaos is their brand.
Ryan Noble in New Hampshire watched the debate with the first-in-the-nation voters and reported back to us on who had won, based on their reactions.
For me, Haley was the most appealing and got some truly good retorts (I liked her comment about her 5-inch heels), but Christie, to me, seems as though he has the necessary experience to do the job. While Haley might also be up to the challenge, I can’t imagine the GOP putting a woman at the top of their ticket. It was a daring enough move when the Democrats selected Hillary Clinton in 2016 and look how well that turned out.
Ron DeSantis has shown himself to be a stubborn Know-It-All that even former Congressional colleagues did not like, when they served alongside him. He continues the tilt towards authoritarian leaders that Trump brought to its peak. He likes the idea of book banning, attacks on LGBQT, and restricting women’s reproductive rights. The man seems like he would not work and play well with others. (So much for working across the aisle). Maybe we should chip in and send him a shirt that says, “Does not work or play well with others. Runs with scissors. Hates Disney.” Still, I can definitely see the GOP voters I know switching from the complete sleaze that DJT is to DeSantis, especially when he says bold things about “shooting illegal immigrants stone cold dead” or some such blustery retort.
This country needs a leader who understands the meaning of the word diplomacy and is likeable. Which of the two GOP front-runners do you think best exemplifies that, DeSantis or Haley? We know, for sure, that Trump is a bully and will spend the rest of his life playing the victim and trying to get revenge for his real or imagined slights. If the Iowa and New Hampshire voters are as informed and aware as they are often said to be, they surely can’t miss the very real fact that Trump is going to be tied up in court for a very long time. That, alone, if not the 14th amendment drafted after the Civil War that prevents anyone who took part in an insurrection from running for office, should keep DJT off the ballot. Who wants to hear him whine about how mean the courts have been to him for the next four years? (Not I, said the Little Red Hen.)
DeSantis is now being interviewed in the spin room: “I think NBC did a good job. The questions were substantive and there wasn’t a lot of screaming.” He is now saying that DJT is being kept off the stage by his handlers as a tactical political move. He remarked that DJT is a very different candidate than he was in 2020. “Voters are now going to pay attention. It is going to hurt him that he is not on that stage.”
The interviewer asks about DJT’s lead, up by 27 points to 42 points, which DeSantis says is because he is the most famous politician in the world. “We’re in this situation now with the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire that the vast numbers of voters in those states do not want to nominate Donald Trump.” (I hope he is right.)
Gee. GOP voters don’t want to nominate a guy who has been indicted 91 times and basically convicted of rape in a civil case? They don’t want to nominate a guy appearing in court every day where his fraud as a businessman has been established and the only question is how big a penalty he will pay for lying “bigly” on financial documents? Gee. I wonder why not? Or, more to the point, I wonder, “Who ARE these GOP voters who DO want to nominate a sleaze like Trump?” Have you ever seen them interviewed at their gatherings? It’s frightening. The fact that the man is still the front-runner says a lot about the power of television, but it says something else about the failure to educate potential voters, either in school or through reliable reporting elsewhere. (Fox News strikes again.)
Does DeSantis need to be tougher on DJT ?
“I think I’m the only guy who can really play in that space of replacing DJT.” He mentions Mexico paying for the border wall. DeSantis is talking about taxing the remittances of moneys sent back to Mexico to raise the money for a wall. (One of the Sunday morning talk shows had a good conversation where those talking agreed that the wall that needs to be built is between Central America and Mexico.)
As GOP voters began to know more about DeSantis, he dropped 14 points. “What changed was the Alvin Bragg indictment.”DeSantis says DJT gets more media attention, but, in Iowa, he feels he can even the media difference out personally by personal campaigning in the state. “I think that Kim Reynolds endorsing me is a big moment for me.” (*As a side note, Kim Reynolds, in a recent poll, was said to be one of the least popular governors in the U.S. So much for how great Iowa thinks she is.)
Policy question to DeSantis: Abortion access powering Dems to victories? Does he believe in a national ban? “If you look at the practical reality of a divided country, pro lifers in particular have a big problem on this referendum. I think the Pro life movement has got to focus on these referendums and be more strategic. They have been getting their clock cleaned on the referendums. Good Republican candidates did well in the aftermath of Dobbs, but the Trump factor is voters who don’t like DJT breaking for the Democrats. When push comes to shove, we (GOP) should be cleaning house.”
Keane, NH: Reaction to the abortion issue from an elderly woman: “I am disappointed that so many women in this country vote with their emotions… I can’t believe so many women vote on the issue of abortion.” This struck me as a very uninformed remark. Women certainly have a right to be “emotional” on the subject of whether or not they will be forced to bear a child (and care for it for the rest of their lives) based on laws passed by old white men who are evangelical Christians (or worse).
Second voter, male: “The most well-managed debate. Riveting. I nearly fell asleep in the first debate.”
Third voter, female: Most important issue? “I thought the idea that the world is on fire was pretty important and the question of whether we help these countries or not. I think that Nikki did a good job on the abortion policy. I would like to see abortion be a private issue for the women in the country and not be such a public issue.” This from a mature New Hampshire female voter who seemed head-and-shoulders above the first female commenter, mentioned above.
NIKKI HALEY IN THE SPIN ROOM
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – FEBRUARY 15: Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley arrives on stage at her first campaign event on February 15, 2023 in Charleston, South Carolina. Former South Carolina Governor and United Nations ambassador Haley, officially announced her candidacy yesterday, making her the first Republican opponent to challenge former U.S. President Donald Trump. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Tom Yamos and Holly Jackson: (Nikki Haley) Tik Tok remark during the debate: “I’m a Mom. The minute you say something about my 25-year-old daughter you get my back up.” She added, “I think Ramaswamy has a dangerous foreign policy that would make America less safe. I don’t even give him the time of day. He has just proven that he has no business being President of the United States.”
On Abortion access: “I look at it from the perspective that this is personal for every man and every woman in America.” “If you’re gonna’ talk about a federal bill, at least be honest with them. You’ve got Republicans trying to push something that isn’t realistic.”
Israel and Hammas: Can you destroy Hammas without destroying Gaza? “We’ve always focused on civilians first. But the reality is that if 1400 Americans had been brutally murdered that way, would Americans be okay with that? We had 33 Americans who were murdered. This is not just personal for Israel, it is personal for the United States. Hammas uses women and children as human shields. If you do a pause, people die, because we’ve done this before. They refuel so they can attack again. They need to let loose of every civilian hostage they have before we negotiate.”
Kyle, a young male voter in Altoona, says he is going to caucus for either DeSantis or Nikki Haley.
Checklist from Altoona male voter: “Vivek doesn’t pay enough attention to the world order. I feel that we need really competent world leadership.”
Female in bar in Altoona who entered as a MAGA supporter: “I’m probably still leaning towards DJT. There’s a lot that still could happen, My allegiance is still with DJT, but I really liked the way DeSantis came out in this debate. I still swing back to DJT who kept peace for 4 years, but I think that Ron DeSantis could do the same thing for us if he were elected.” (My heart hurts for someone who knows so little about what DJT did for four years and has done for over 7 decades and does not seem to know enough about the actions of DeSantis in Florida, either.)
All voters in Altoona raised their hands, saying that they felt Trump should have been onstage for the debate.
Talking about raising the retirement age: “Raising the retirement age for a blue collar worker by a year or two is devastating.” (?) All of our spending is bad, he says, despite many worthwhile improvements that the Biden administration has devoted funds towards, and he talks about going back to pre-Covid levels of spending. “We have to increase the economic activity in the private sector.” Scott spoke of a balanced budget amendment. Lots of talking about faith. It appears that his wife is an attractive white blonde woman, based on the family members seen flocking to see their favorite candidate after the debate ended.
On Iran: Further escalation? “What we’ve seen is 40 attacks on military personnel since October 7th. We need to cut off the head of the snake (in Iran). Hammas gets 90% of its funds from Iran. What we need to do is not just to strike warehouses in Syria but to strike the funders of terrorism in the region.” 1600 or 1700 Israelis were lost and 35 American lives. “You cannot negotiate with evil, you have to destroy it.” (Seems like quite a war monger; wonder if he got behind DJT’s idea to bomb drug dealers within Mexico?)
Asked about whether he will make it onto the next debate stage: ‘I’m 100 % certain that 100 days from now in Alabama I’ll be on the debate stage.” (Really? Maybe ask them to donate to the deficit, instead? Seems like pouring money down a rat hole.) “Voters are just turning their attention to this election. I’m very optimistic about this election.” (Well, that makes one person, but he’s not an Iowa voter.)
RAMASWAMY’S ATTACK ON THE RNC
“Kind of weird” says the GOP former deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley about Ramaswamy’s attack on Rona McDaniel. He says that there is criticism amongst other GOP voters of the RNC. They don’t feel that the RNC is doing enough at the local level.
CHANGE FROM DEBATE ?
Former governor of New Jersey and presidential candidate Chris Christie.
“In this moment, no, no change.” Christie, for one, the GOP moderator found to be lackluster. “You’re here to throw bombs. Why aren’t you throwing them?”
“Donald Trump has the luxury of not coming because he is so high in the polls, but as the field shrinks, there may be an opportunity for him to come in and shake things up. (From Hogan Gidley).
WHO DO REPUBLICANS WANT TO SEE RUN ?
Jen Psaki said that the voters were not really planning for any of these candidates. “I think that what they are focused on is the general election.” She highlighted abortion and the Republican party being the party of extremism as things the Democrats will emphasize during the 2024 election. (Good things to emphasize, since they are true.)
Any chance of Biden pulling out as a candidate?
Jen Psaki says no. “I was part of Obama’s team when people were saying, ‘There’s no way this guy can win.’ And then he won.”
I second that last bit of wisdom, from Jen Psaki, former Press Secretary for President Biden. I was named the Yahoo Content Producer of the Year for Politics in 2008 and vilified for reporting that Obama was winning in Iowa. That article on Associated Content was hit 3 million times. As a result, I was invited to come to Denver and cover the 2008 DNC and the 2008 RNC in St. Paul, from which came two books, “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vols, I & II. Check them out.