Eight Republican candidates entered the debate stage on Wednesday evening, with one big name absent from the room: Donald Trump.
They waved to the crowd as they left and took their places on the podium. Their order was determined by their position in the polls, with the highest ones taking center stage.
This is the first big primetime event for Republican presidential candidates and everyone knows they need to take advantage of the opportunity to make their mark.
The candidates take the stage during the Republican debate: LR), former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former US Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis , Vivek Ramaswamy, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, US Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy — who sit second and third in the polls after Trump — are expected to be the top targets of the evening.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senator Tim Scott, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum will join them on stage.
Haley, who launched several attacks on Ramaswamy before the debate, is next to him on stage.
Burgum came out with a left leg boot after sustaining a high-grade Achilles tear during a basketball game on Tuesday night. He will rest on a stool during commercial breaks.
The first question of the evening focused on the economy, which voters say is one of their top issues for the 2024 election.
He went to DeSantis and he used him to attack Joe Biden and the president’s oldest son, Hunter.
“We need to send Joe Biden back to his basement and reverse America’s decline,” the Florida governor said.
“We can’t be successful as a country if you work hard and can’t afford groceries, a car or a new house, when Hunter Biden can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. dollars with ugly paintings. This is wrong.’
Trump, meanwhile, had his own counter-programming. The former president sat down for a pre-recorded interview with Tucker Carlson. He called his critics are ‘savage’ and claimed his opponents would try to ‘steal’ the election again, in a preview of the interview uploaded by Carlson.
Former Fox News host Carlson asked the former president if the United States is heading towards a civil war and if he fears his enemies want to kill him in the first excerpt of their conversation which will be broadcast at 9 pm.
Trump told Carlson he didn’t think President Joe Biden would “make it happen” when asked about his health and also accused Mitch McConnell of trying to rally support to impeach him.
Debate moderators Bret Baier and Fox News’ Martha MacCallum said they will make sure Trump appears at the event – in the video clips they play and in the questions they ask about the four acts. indictment of the former president.
Additionally, several Republican candidates — like Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson — have vowed to attack Trump while others — like Ron DeSantis — will court his supporters.
Trump has surrogates in the crowd: his eldest son Don Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle, Kari Lake and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
The four mingled with Trump supporters outside the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, where the debate will take place. About two dozen MAGA fans were outside, holding up Trump signs and signs qualifying the audition debate for Trump’s running mate.
Trump declined to attend the debate but is expected to top it – just as he leads his rivals in the polls by double digits.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and Ambassador Nikki Haley on the debate stage
An armored vehicle and security personnel outside the Fiserv Forum before the start of the Republican presidential debate
Donald Trump Jr. and his partner Kimberly Guilfoyle mingle with attendees as they arrive at the debate room
People dressed in a Dr. Antony Fauci suit (left) and a Donald Trump suit (right) stand outside the Fiserv Forum before the start of the Republican presidential debate.
Donald Trump had his own counter-programming in the form of an interview with Tucker Carlson
President Biden addressed reporters while vacationing in Lake Tahoe after a workout and drinking a banana-blueberry smoothie, saying he would watch the debate.
In fact, he’s so far ahead that even if one of the candidates has a viral moment, it might not be enough to gain traction on the former president, who will be back in the news on Thursday when he will arrive in Atlanta for his election appearance in Georgia. case of interference.
“I don’t think a lot of people will be talking Thursday morning about what’s going on here in this little league game,” Trump ally Kari Lake told DailyMail.com in an interview on Tuesday.
It is still unclear whether a candidate will be able to take advantage of the evening to catch up enough and seriously challenge Trump: the former president leads DeSantis by 41 points in the standings. RealClearPolitics Poll Average and leads Ramaswamy by 49 points.
And these are his two closest challengers.
It’s unclear whether Trump will watch the event.
President Joe Biden has said he will listen.
But he joked that he had no expectations for the evening, which is the first official gathering of Republicans trying to defeat him in next year’s election.
“I’ll try to see — get as many as I can, yeah,” he told reporters Wednesday in Lake Tahoe, where he’s spending a week vacation. Biden wore a banana-blueberry smoothie as he spoke and had just come from Pelodog, a studio that combines Pilates and spin classes.
When asked what his expectations were, Biden smiled broadly and laughed, “I don’t have any.”