Who really won the first Republican debate? Who knows—and who can really tell? The hope was there would be clear winner. There wasn’t.
Some say Nikki Haley stood tall on the mechanics of handling abortion, on dealing with Ukraine, on the debt.
Perhaps. But DeSantis is a sitting governor, a successful sitting governor, and a phenomenal vote-getter. He’s not Ronald Reagan. There’s no “There you go again” from him. But he’s solid: he played baseball in college and was a tough guy in the Navy.
Vivek Ramaswamy was energetic and entertaining, if a bit off-key at times.
Pence was most attractive, but also quite yesterday. Tim Scott really didn’t seem big league.
But it’s worth noting, at least parenthetically, that on stage standing next to each other were a man whose parents were Hindu, a woman whose parents were Indian, and a black. This is not your grandfather’s Republican party—and not the Democrat party either.
There were some “also rans” at the debate: former Governors Hutchinson and Christie, and current North Dakota Governor Burgum.
Who won? Who knows? But we know who really won: Donald Trump. As long as there are multiple candidates in the race, Trump wins. We’ve seen this movie before.
What to do?
The serious candidates should get together and decide which one should run for president and which one for vice president. Then they should get together and parcel out the cabinet positions. There seems to be wide agreement that unless they do that, Trump will succeed in getting the nomination.
DeSantis is polling the best by far, and it makes sense for him to be the presidential candidate. Ramaswamy is number two. Young people might enjoy having someone close to their age on the ticket, even if he is unseasoned. On the other hand, Scott, as a black VP candidate, could chart a new course for blacks—and lead an effort to reform public schools which are the modern equivalent of slavery.
Haley also is a possibility, of course, but she could be secretary of state, leveraging her experience as ambassador to the United Nations. Ramaswamy could be secretary of commerce. He probably knows more about business than any Democrat politician alive. Pence is also way down in the polls, and he’s already had his chance at vice president. Christie is too much of a maverick to be VP, but an excellent choice for attorney general. With a little humility—and a lot of concern for the country—they could work something out. If they can’t, it should make you wonder if any of them should be president.
Who’s left on the score board? Hutchinson and Burgum, and Larry Elder and Will Hurd who didn’t qualify for the debate, are in the 1 to 0 range, depending on which poll you consult. There’s a lot to do in Washington to clean up the mess of the last decades. If they can’t find something useful to do, they certainly shouldn’t be running for president.
Going into the primaries with a unified party and ticket may be the only way to beat Trump.
And it’s worth reminding voters that, for all of Trump’s showmanship, he is all but a four-time loser.
In 2016, he won only because the then head of the FBI, James Comey, inexplicably reopened the case against Hillary Clinton and her laptop’s disappearing emails. Otherwise it would have been curtains for Trump. People—especially Trump and his people—play up his 2016 victory as if it were the electioneering feat of the century. It wasn’t. In fact, it was a tremendous bungle on the part of the Democrats.
Then in the 2018 mid-term elections, the Democrats took back the House of Representatives.
In 2020, Trump lost the election to Biden. There really isn’t much question that he lost—even if he won’t admit it. Yes, there were irregularities, imposed on the electorate by unscrupulous politicians who saw an opportunity given to them by the Chinese Flu. Life isn’t fair. Someone like Trump, born with a gold spoon in his mouth (if not then in his private plane) should know that.
In fairness to Trump, however, it is also true that the media “stole” the election from him in 2020: their complicity in covering up the Hunter Biden laptop story cost Trump votes that would have changed the outcome. Polls taken after the election have confirmed that. Still—the election was close enough for that chicanery to “steal” the election. As a sitting president, he should have done better. Where was “huge” when he needed it?
Then in 2022, multiple Trump-endorsed candidates lost elections.
The truth is, Trump is not a great candidate, not a great Republican asset. Democrats know that, which is why they are doing everything they can to ensure his nomination.
Republicans need to wake up. Instead, they seem to be on cruise control: doing what they did the last time, and the time before that, and before that. That way—the way of madness—lies defeat.
Instead of getting together and adopting a strategy designed to win, the Republican candidates will criticize Donald Trump and each other, on stage, and in the media, providing the Democrats with ample footage to run during the campaign.
Gads: won’t it be embarrassing if Joe Biden beats Donald Trump a second time? And not just embarrassing, but a disaster for the country.
Daniel Oliver is Chairman of the Board of the Education and Research Institute and a Director of Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was Executive Editor and subsequently Chairman of the Board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review.
Email Daniel Oliver at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.