August 14, 2023

Republican Debate

“Former President Donald Trump said [last] Wednesday he won’t sign a pledge to support the Republican nominee if he loses the GOP presidential primary, flouting a requirement for appearing in the first debate later this month… Trump said he will announce [this] week whether he’ll participate in the debate, scheduled for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee.” AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues that Trump will be the center of attention whether he attends the debate or not.

“Trump is not your normal, open-field presidential primary candidate. He’s a quasi-incumbent whom most of the party’s primary voters are satisfied with as their party’s main character. As of this writing, he is maintaining a 39-point lead over his nearest competitor, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis… He has comfortable margins in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina as well…

“President Joe Biden, meanwhile—an actual incumbent—is maintaining a 49-point lead over Robert F. Kennedy Jr… From a strategic perspective, it’s not even, and never will be, a live question about whether or not Biden should debate Kennedy.”

Jim Newell, Slate

“Imagine a debate in which the big question is whether Ron DeSantis or Mike Pence is more personable. Imagine a debate where Tim Scott and Nikki Haley end up swapping South Carolina anecdotes. Imagine a debate where North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum explains why the United States needs another billionaire president. Or, Republicans can just get real and admit that a Fox News debate without the party’s front-runner, the man who has literally remade the GOP in his own image, is not a debate at all…

Whether Trump shows up in Milwaukee or not, the spotlight will be on him. Not on DeSantis. Not on Pence. Not on Christie. And not on the only GOP contender who seems to have gained anything akin to momentum, billionaire-wannabe Vivek Ramaswamy, whose over-the-top enthusiasm for Trump seems to suggest he is really running for a place on the former president’s vice-presidential short list.”

John Nichols, The Nation

“[Trump’s] ambiguity has made debate prep difficult for the rest of the GOP field. Chris Christie, for example, has made the entire premise for his candidacy the proposition that he would tear Trump a new [one] once they were on the same stage. What if they aren’t? Will Christie shout at the cameras?…

“But it’s just as big a problem for DeSantis, who may well become the entire field’s punching bag if Trump isn’t there. He has to prepare for two very different debates…

“No one knows at this point how big a role candidate debates will play in the 2024 nomination contest, but anyone dismissing debates altogether should be reminded of the 2020 Democratic contest when a billion-dollar Michael Bloomberg campaign all but imploded before it really launched after a few terrible minutes on a debate stage in Las Vegas.”

Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine

From the Right

The right is divided as to whether Trump should attend the debate, and criticizes his failure to sign the loyalty pledge.

The right is divided as to whether Trump should attend the debate, and criticizes his failure to sign the loyalty pledge.

“There are multiple prosecutors who are looking at putting the former president behind bars, and Trump does himself no favors when he’s unscripted… Just imagine if Trump is sparring with Ron DeSantis over the 2020 election and start spouting off on more things that Jack Smith will then use in part of a superseding indictment regarding the election conspiracy. Or what if Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice president, manages to get Trump to talk about the documents at Mar-a-Lago?…

“I don’t know if, strategically, it would make sense for Trump to appear on the stage. Legally, I know it’s a risk that I, if I were his lawyer (or a lawyer at all), would not want him to take. But Trump does a whole hell of a lot that is inadvisable, and he somehow survives it.”

Joe Cunningham, RedState

“Anyone running for political office, let alone for president of the United States, should have the gumption and integrity to participate in debates. Moreover, say Trump wins the GOP nomination as expected. If polls showed that President Joe Biden had a lead over Trump in the general election, how does anyone think Trump would react if Biden declined to debate him? But with Trump not participating, he is making another political mistake and giving Biden a precedent to follow…

“And, perhaps most importantly, given Trump’s lead, it would give Trump extra practice. It is one thing to prepare for debates but another to participate in one… Getting the ability to (essentially) practice against established politicians, likely without likely suffering any negative consequences, would be a perfect opportunity for him to refine his skills and prepare for the likely showdown against Biden.”

Christopher Tremoglie, Washington Examiner

“Remove the names and go with Candidate A and Candidate B, or better yet, reverse the names. What if DeSantis was way ahead in pre-debate polls and Trump trailing, far behind? Would the former president’s supporters take kindly to DeSantis refusing to debate Trump, or to refuse to sign a pledge to support the eventual nominee if DeSantis doesn’t win the nomination? The question is rhetorical — of course not…

“While Trump — or any Republican candidate — might not be a fan of this or that GOP candidate, any one of them is a no-brainer choice over Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, or whoever the hell the Democrat nominee might be. As I said, that’s a no-brainer, folks — and it should be such for every Republican candidate in the race.”

Mike Miller, RedState

A libertarian's take

“There’s nobody on the continent who doesn’t know who [Trump] is and what he stands for. At this point in the clinched campaign, there is no point in having him win more votes. His media magnetism and skill at domination are so grand that any debate with a panel of Republicans that includes him tends to be about him. Even if Trump were to contain his energies, the rest of the pack would insist on attaching themselves to him because that’s what these GOP candidates do: Hungrily grab any Trump-related morsel of news coverage that they can…

“Whether Trump wins the general election in 2024 or not, the Republican Party needs to start preparing itself for a Trumpless future. Yes, someday he will be gone, either summoned to heaven or the other place, enrolled in a Bureau of Prisons work program, or lounging on the patio in retirement. By excluding Trump from the debate, the current crop of party leaders could use the forum to present themselves and their ideas to voters without the oppressive background noise of the Trump siren. He’d still be the elephant in the room, but only a baby elephant.”
Jack Shafer, Politico

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