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What Happened at the First Republican Debate?

Please note that this article is intended to provide factual coverage of events and is NOT intended to express political opinion. Any and all opinions that may be implied do not represent the official stances of the Poudre Press, Poudre School District, or Poudre High School.

On August 23rd the GOP held their first presidential primary debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The same city will also be the place where the eventual nominee will take their party's nomination and go on to face the Democratic nominee in the general election. Eight contenders qualified for the debate and chose to take part, the eight were: Doug Burgum the governor of North Dakota, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Ron Desantis the governor of Florida, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, former Vice President Mike Pence, Vivek Ramaswamy an entrepreneur who founded Roivant Sciences an investment holding company, and finally, there was Tim Scott a Senator from South Carolina.

The candidates all seemed to agree to disagree with President Biden's economic policies (Bidenomics) with Gov. Desantis saying “We must reverse Bidenomics so that middle-class families have a chance to succeed again”, going on to pledge “We’re going to open up all energy production. We will be energy dominant again”. Gov. Christie largely agreed with Gov. Desantis, but insisted that he was the candidate who could sell these ideas to ordinary Americans “I was elected a conservative governor in a blue state… we cut taxes in New Jersey, we cut debt in New Jersey”. Senator Scott hammered the current state of inflation “Gas is up 40 percent, your food is up 20 percent, your electricity is up 20 percent.” Scott went on to show off his record of tax cuts “I helped write the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017… returning to the average family 4,000 dollars”. Mr. Ramaswamy stressed that his young age of 38 and lack of government experience is an advantage “If you have a broken car, you don’t turn over the keys to the people who broke it… You hand it over to a new generation to actually fix the problem”. While Gov. Haley attacked Bidenomics, she also attacked previous Republican fiscal policy “You have Ron Desantis, you’ve got Tim Scott, you’ve got Mike Pence… and Donald Trump (who) added eight trillion dollars to our debt… it’s time for an accountant in the White House”. Vice President Pence defended the record of the Trump-Pence administration “We rebuilt our military, we revived our economy, we unleased American energy, and we appointed three conservatives to the Supreme Court”. Pence went on to say he was the most qualified to be President “I’m the best prepared, the most tested, the most qualified, and proven conservative in this race”. Gov. Burgum attacked the Inflation Reduction Act signed by the President in 2022 “The 1.2 trillion dollars… is just subsidizing China… if we're going to stop buying oil from the Middle East and start buying batteries from China we're just trading OPEC for Sinopec”. Gov. Hutchinson stressed his small government handling of Arkansas and promised to reduce the federal government“ I created a two billion dollar surplus… we have 14 percent fewer employees in Arkansas after I left the government… I pledge to reduce it by 10 percent our federal nondefense workforce”. Mr. Ramaswamy similarly attacked the “ administrative state” in government and said we have “three branches of government not four” (referencing various government agencies).

Mr. Ramaswamy when asked about climate change declared it a “hoax” and went on to say that “more people are dying of bad climate change policy than they are of actual climate change”. Gov. Christie attacked Ramaswamy calling him an “amateur” and comparing him to President Obama. Gov. Haley said that climate change is real but said “These subsidies are not working… India, China you’ve got to stop polluting”. Senator Scott said, “America has cut our carbon footprint in half in the last 25 years… why do we put ourselves at a disadvantage, let's bring our jobs home”. On the topic of abortion Gov. Haley said we should find consensus on abortion “Can’t we all agree we should ban late-term abortions, can’t we all agree we should encourage adoptions… can’t we all agree contraception should be available, and can’t we all agree that we're not going to put a woman in jail or give her the death penalty if she gets an abortion”. Gov. Desantis who signed a six-week ban on abortion in Florida did not state his stance on what he would do on the federal level while emphasizing different states will handle abortion different “I’m going to stand on the side of life, look I understand Wisconsin is going to do it differently than Texas… but I will support the cause of life”. Vice President Pence called for a national abortion ban at 15 weeks “it’s a moral issue… can’t we have a minimum standard in every state in the nation”. Gov. Burgum emphasized his support of federalism despite his pro life stance “I’m a pro-life governor…I say we follow the constitution and this is returned to the states”. Senator Scott declared a strong stance “We cannot let states like California, New York, and Illinois have abortions on demand… that is immoral… we must solve that issue with a 15 week limit at a minimum”.

All the candidates who qualified for the debate were required to sign a pledge which states that they will support whoever gets the GOP nomination. When asked whether or not the candidates would support former President Trump who was just indicted in Georgia six of the eight candidates raised their hands indicating they would support him if he was the nominee. Gov. Christie and Hutchison were the only two who committed to opposing Trump if he became the nominee. While other topics did get discussed at the debate such as crime and the war in Ukraine, these were some of the most contentious issues that were discussed, though if you wish to learn more about the candidates' stances on your most important issue I would urge you to check their campaign websites.

Please note that this article is intended to provide factual coverage of events and is NOT intended to express political opinion. Any and all opinions that may be implied do not represent the official stances of the Poudre Press, Poudre School District, or Poudre High School.

Brody is a senior at Poudre High School working at the Poudre Press for the first time. Some of Brody's interests include government, history, and world events. He runs a column called 2024 Today which delves into relevant news around the upcoming 2024 election. You can find his blog here.


Hyatt, John. “How Vivek Ramaswamy Became a Billionaire.” Forbes, August 25, 2023.

Jackson, Herb. “Transcript: GOP Presidential Hopefuls Debate in Milwaukee.” Roll Call, August 24, 2023.

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