No-show Trump wins first GOP debate
Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, DC shares his perspective on US politics.
Who were the big winners and the big losers from this week's Republican debate?
Three clear winners were probably Vivek Ramaswamy, who's done pretty well in making a name for himself as a first time politician, and came across as likable and energetic, full of some fresh ideas that are probably going to appeal to a lot of Republican voters who were otherwise thinking about supporting President Trump. Two is Nikki Haley, the former UN ambassador and governor of South Carolina, who had herself a pretty good night scoring some points against Ramaswamy on foreign policy, and coming across as competent and credible. And of course, the third winner is Donald Trump, who didn't show up but kind of dominated the proceedings anyway and continues to be the front-runner even after the debate.
On the loser side, you had a couple of people who just didn't have great nights. Chris Christie got resoundingly booed for his strategy of attacking Trump and presenting himself as the alternative, or trying to create space for somebody else to get in that lane. Mike Pence really did nothing to distinguish himself. In fact, I kind of forgot he was up there at times, as I've forgotten that he's even running for president right now. Same with Tim Scott, who I think has a very great story and is a very likable guy, but just isn't resonating with a lot of Republicans.
And the biggest loser was probably Ron DeSantis, who's presented himself as the most credible alternative to Trump so far but has really been tailing off in the polling, has shown himself to be vulnerable to people like Ramaswamy, and last night didn't really do much to change that narrative. He kind of has his line of attack against the cultural left, which resonates with a lot of Republican voters. But there's no real reason to prefer him over President Trump at this point, and there probably aren't enough Republican voters who will do so, that will help propel him to the next level.
There won't be any votes cast in this election until Iowa, which is next year. And in the meantime, there's going to be another debate, probably also without Trump, in California, in late September. So, stay tuned for an entertaining Republican primary, but one that kind of feels like they're play-acting a little bit without the dominant force, former President Trump, up on stage.