Republican Debate, pledge, Donald Trump
Photo credit: Jon Richards / WhoWhatWhy

Without Trump, it’s unclear why anybody would tune in to the first GOP debate… or be on stage for that matter.

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If you enjoy watching people who won’t be president say a lot of things that aren’t true, then today’s Republican debate will be an absolute doozy.

It’s unclear why anybody else would tune in… or be on stage for that matter.

It would be one thing if the seven men and one woman who are participating in the event were competing for the spot to take on former President Donald Trump one-on-one. But that’s not happening. Only two of them, former governors Chris Christie (NJ) and Asa Hutchinson (AR), are openly antagonistic toward the frontrunner.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sometimes kinda is as well, especially recently, but he is still trying to overtake Trump in his own lane, which seems like an even more foolish strategy now than it did when he got in the race a few weeks, several now-fired staffers, multiple campaign resets, and many millions of dollars ago.

A pair of South Carolinians, current Sen. Tim Scott and former Gov. Nikki Haley, are trying to straddle the line between not offending Trump and telling voters that it is time to move on from him.

Then there is businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who is brimming with confidence and libertarian ideas.

Finally, there is Mike Pence. If a higher power told the former vice president to run, then that higher power must be a jerk with a pretty cruel sense of humor.

And that’s everybody.

Oh, wait; we forgot Doug Burgum, which is an easy mistake to make. The North Dakota governor used the novel strategy of bribing voters to earn the right to be a non-entity in this race.

None of them seems to be pursuing a strategy of being the one true alternative to Trump, so it’s difficult to see what they are thinking.

By taking on the former president instead of waiting his turn, DeSantis probably spoiled his own presidential ambitions by falling into disrepute with right-wing Republicans, i.e., the very people he needs to ever win a primary.

With regard to Pence, at this time, it seems most likely that he is just a glutton for punishment. Maybe he is like one of those CEO-types who visit a dominatrix once a month to be humiliated and lick gum from her heels. That would really be the only good explanation for why he is staying in a race he can’t win while being heckled at every turn.

Maybe Scott and Haley are angling to become Trump’s running mate and then be in a position to become the heir apparent in 2028, but that plan didn’t work out for Pence. Also, they don’t seem crazy enough to be on the ticket. Still, at least that resembles any kind of strategy.

Ramaswamy is probably going to turn his 10 percent of support into money somehow. He seems like the type who will be the face of the next big thing in cryptocurrency. In any case, he is so young that the profile he is buying himself in this race might pay off down the road.

As for Christie and Hutchinson, they are most likely to think that they could actually take down the former president if they can end up in a one-on-one matchup with him and GOP voters get tired of Trump.

Obviously, the problem with that strategy is that Republicans will never get tired of Trump, so maybe the two former governors can parlay this failed run into a show on MSNBC.

That covers everybody, and it is truly a mystery why any of them are in the race. Maybe one of the candidates will try to pull some crazy stunt on the debate stage tomorrow, so it might be worth tuning in just for that.

Otherwise, the most entertaining thing might just be to watch how the Fox News hosts will try to bait Trump into participating in the next debate — because he doesn’t just control this race and the GOP but also TV ratings on right-wing news networks. 


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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  • Jon Richards

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