Four Republican presidential candidates accused each other of being “corrupt”, of fascism, and lying tonight in a cat fight style presidential primary debate staged at the University of Alabama and televised by NewsNation.
The candidates tore into each other but the big orange cheese — Donald Trump— once again was missing. Three treated him gingerly.
Only ex-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took on Trump head on.
“This is the problem with my three colleagues,” said Christie, “they’re afraid to offend. And if you’re afraid to offend Donald Trump, then what are you going to do when you sit across from President Xi?”
Viewers learned bizarre things during the debate.
Which past president would be a model for your administration, they were asked?
Calvin Coolidge, replied Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida. “Silent Cal knew the role of the federal government,” he said of the pre-Great Depression president.
Candidate Vivek Ramaswany sees “deep state” footprints in the January 6th, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. “Why am I the only person on this stage, at least, that January 6th is now looking like an inside job?”
Issues dear to Republicans were debated.
While abortion rights have topped the country’s women’s agenda, ex-South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley had a different take.
“I said biological boys shouldn’t be playing in girls’ sports and I will do everything that I can to stop that because this is the women’s issue of our time,” said Haley.
The debate was thrice interrupted with commercial breaks, including ads for ByteDance-owned TikTok. Toward the end, however, Haley declared: “We really do need to ban TikTok once and for all.”
DeSantis danced around the Trump question.
He argued that the seventy-six-year old is too old to reclaim the White House, that Trump did not deliver on deportations. “He deported less than Barack Obama when he was president,” said the Florida governor, who recently sparred with California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom in a Fox primetime special.
Nikki Haley has been gaining in the polls and was much picked on.
DeSantis even tried to link her to Xi’s China for the sin of spending a year on Boeing’s board of directors. “I love Boeing: They build very good airplanes,” she shot back. (Boeing has an assembly plant in South Carolina, where the 787 Dreamliner is put together with non-union labor.)
But insults were the order of the day. Trump is a “dictator,” a “bully” and lately “unhinged” said Christie. He described Ramaswamy as “the biggest blowhard in America”. Ramaswamy called Haley “corrupt” and a “fascist.”
There were distortions, notably from DeSantis, who is depicting himself as an adversary of Big Tech and has picked high profile fights with Disney.
“Nikki Haley said the other day there should be no limits on legal immigration and that corporate CEO’s should set policy on that,” charged DeSantis.
DeSantis is the most scripted of the candidates, often repeating the line that if he’s elected, “There’ll be a new sheriff in town.”
He came across as about as dour and humorless as Calvin Coolidge.
As the four rivals were squabbling on stage, the Trump campaign was unveiling a new television spot, and sitting on a forty point lead in the polls.
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