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The Student News Site of Fairmont State University

The Columns

Republican Primary Debate Kicks Off Election Season


On August 23, 2023, GOP hopefuls failed to make an impression with voters despite Trump’s absence. Here are the most important points from the Republican Primary Debate.

  • Moderators Brett Baier and Martha Macallum began the debate by criticizing President Biden’s economic policy and playing a clip of Oliver Anthony’s hit song: Rich Men North of Richmond. “Our country is in decline, this decline is not inevitable, it’s a choice,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said. “We need to send Joe Biden back to his basement and reverse American decline.”
  • Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was quick to implicate her own party on the role they played in causing inflation rates to spike and the nation’s deficit to increase. “What I care about is that no one is telling the American people the truth,” Haley said. “The truth is that Biden didn’t do this to us, our Republicans did this to us too when they passed that 2.2 trillion dollar covid stimulus bill. At the end of the day Republicans asked for 7.4 billion in ear marks, Democrats asked for 2.8 billion so you tell me who are the big spenders.”
  • The debate then discussed how each candidate would tackle climate change. Vivek Ramaswamy tried to distance himself from more moderate candidates by stating that earth’s temperatures are not rising as a result of carbon, much to the chagrin of the other candidates. “I’m the only one who is not bought and paid for so I’ll say it, the climate change agenda is a hoax,” Ramaswamy said. 
  • The issue of abortion reared its head with Vice President Mike Pence and DeSantis supporting strict federal restrictions on abortions while Haley slammed legislation that would punish women for having an abortion and called for a reasonable approach to the issue. “When it comes to a federal ban, let’s be honest with the American people and say it will take 60 senate votes, it will take a majority of the house. In order to do that let’s find consensus,” she said. “Can’t we all agree we should ban late term abortion? Can’t we all agree that we should encourage adoptions? Can’t we all agree that doctors and nurses who don’t believe in abortion shouldn’t have to perform them? Can’t we all agree that contraception should be available and can’t we all agree that we aren’t going to put women in jail or give her the death penalty if she gets an abortion?”
  • The question of how crime in America’s biggest cities would be handled in a hypothetical Mike Pence or Governor Chris Christie presidency was debated. Pence stated he would eliminate a federal agency and return the funds to the state. “What we need is strong commitment to law enforcement. We are going to cut taxes further. We are going to extend those tax cuts,” Pence said. “We are going to close the federal department of education and block grant all that funding back to the state with a growing economy and education choice and law enforcement we will bring our cities back.” Christie said he would be tougher on crime by making changes at the Department of Justice. “The problem is not going to be solved by more money. The problem is that these prosecutors in these localities and the states are refusing to do their jobs and to arrest violent criminals,” Christie said. “What president Christie would do is appoint an Attorney General who would instruct each of the 93 US attorneys that they are to take over the prosecution of violent crime in every one of those cities that are failing to do so.”
  • Governor Asa Hutchinson said he would focus on the drug epidemic and educate citizens on opioids such as fentanyl. “Let’s deal with the challenge of fentanyl and its both about stopping the fentanyl coming from Mexico but it’s also about education of our young people, making sure we have the tools that are needed for addiction counseling. That’s what we expanded in Arkansas as well,” Hutchinson said. He also directly attacked the former president and the examples he has set since his indictment.
  • While Trump was not present, the debate about his legal issues and future loomed large over the stage. Approximately halfway through the debate, Brett Baier addressed Trumps absence calling it “the elephant not in the room.” The candidates were asked whether or not they would support Trump as the Republican nominee for the 2024 election. Six candidates raised their hands with the exception of Christie and Hutchinson. Ramaswamy appeared to try to fill the void of the former president by spouting outrageous and at times untrue claims. 
  • Mike Pence’s actions on January 6, 2021 were briefly addressed with Senator Tim Scott, Governor DeSantis and Governor Chris Christie supporting the Vice President. Scott went on to claim that the Biden Administration and the Department of Justice has abused their power and violated the civil rights of certain Americans. “We keep seeing, not only, the weaponization of the Department of Justice against political opponents but also against parents who show up at school board meetings,” Scott said. “Under this DOJ they are called domestic terrorists. Additionally, we see swat teams show up at pro life activists homes with guns drawn.” The Senator did not offer any context about his claims or evidence to support them.
  • Pence and Ramaswamy engaged in a contentious argument about whether Russia or China pose a greater threat to the US. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and Haley stated that the relationship between Russia and China is mutually beneficial for both countries and each present a threat. “This is the number one issue we are facing. Russia has become China’s gas station. The Biden Administration is a complete fail,” Burgum said. “China imports 10 million barrels of oil per day more than any other country in the world. They don’t even have all the food they need to feed everyone on that country so they don’t have food security or energy security. The Biden Administration sends (Secretary of State) Blinken and (Treasury Secretary) Yellen over there. They don’t even bring up energy because they are too busy trying to kill the US energy here.”
  • DeSantis stated he would use lethal force and military assets to protect the border from drug cartels. “I would do it on day one. As president would I use force. Would I treat them as a foreign terrorist organization? You’re darn right I would,” he said. On the issue of illegal immigration, Macallum asked Christie whether or not he would support deporting illegal aliens back to their country.  Christie indicated he would stating, “Of course, you have to.”
  • Governor DeSantis was asked what role his presidency would play in improving American education. He stated that he wanted schools to be for “solid academics not indoctrination.”“In Florida, we eliminated critical race theory from K-12 schools, we eliminated gender ideology from K-12 schools, and we have elevated the importance of American civics,” he said. Ramaswamy and Pence both indicated that they would work to eliminate the federal department of education. Ramaswamy, Christie and Scott stated that the influence of teachers unions are detrimental to students success. 

The Big Takeaway:

            This year’s debate was much different from 2016 as prominent Republican figures such as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul were not on the stage. According to FiveThirtyEight, President Trump still maintains a 40 point lead over DeSantis who is his closest competitor. The next Republican debate is scheduled for Sept. 27, 2023 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

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About the Contributor
Zachary Summers
Zachary Summers, Assistant Editor
Zachary Summers is a lifelong resident of Fairmont, WV. He graduated from Pierpont Community and Technical College with an Associate's degree in Business Management. He is a transfer student at Fairmont State majoring in English: Writing for the Workplace. His primary interests are government and politics, but he also enjoys writing about a variety of current events happening in the community. During his free time, he likes to read about history and philosophy, visit local restaurants, and walk the rail trails in the area.  
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