6 things to watch for in the 2024 Republican presidential primary | CNN Politics (2023)


With front-runner Donald Trump skipping the Republican primary for the 2024 presidential election, eight of his Republican rivals will compete to be the best replacement for the party's former president in their first matchup on the Milwaukee stage Wednesday night .

The two-hour debate begins at 9pm. eastern time. Hosted by Fox News Channel, Brett Beyer and Martha McCallum.

CNN will follow the debate on cnn.com, with live updates, analysis and fact-checking.

Eight candidates will take the stage: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; former Vice President Mike Pence; former South Carolina Gov. and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley; former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; South Carolina Senator Tim Scott; former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and North Dakota Gov. Doug Bulgum.

Here are six things to watch from Wednesday night's debate:

Can DeSantis handle the bright lights?

With Trump absent from Wednesday night's debate, DeSantis could be the biggest target on the Milwaukee stage. DeSantis ranks second nationally and in early voting states among likely Republican primary voters for the year.

After all, Trump remains wildly popular among Republican voters, meaning attacks on the former president could alienate a broad swath of primary voters. Instead, similar to the 2016 primaries, many Republican candidates appear to be positioning themselves first and foremost as the most viable local alternative to Trump — a position that DeSantis now occupies.

After winning re-election last year by 19 percentage points, DeSantis entered the Republican race with incredibly high expectations. But he has yet to deliver on that promise, with his poll numbers falling after shrinking and reshuffling his campaign.

6 things to watch for in the 2024 Republican presidential primary | CNN Politics (1)

Republican presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Iowa Republican Lincoln Day Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 28.

(Video) 2024 GOP candidates square off at first primary debate | Nightline

A strong showing Wednesday night could stabilize Florida's governorship.

But he had already suffered an embarrassment ahead of this debate, when his super PAC — with which he has an unusually close relationship after hiring many of the functions normally handled by a candidate’s own campaign — wrote in a memo. Advise him to "kill" Ramaswamy and defend Trump if he is absent. The former president was attacked by Christie. DeSantis distanced himself from the memo.

"It's a separate entity. I have nothing to do with it. It's not something I've read or read, and it doesn't reflect my strategy," DeSantis said Monday.

To Trump or not to Trump? That's the problem.

The former president's absence provided an opportunity for his Republican rivals to introduce themselves and talk about their thoughts on the future at the 2024 campaign's biggest dinner yet.

At least that's the suggestion of former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who debated with Trump during the 2016 campaign cycle before dropping out.

"The only person who's going to change your mind about Donald Trump is Donald Trump, not any candidate," Walker told CNN, sharing some of his advice for some candidates. "If they waste their time attacking him, that's what they do, waste of time. But if they come out and have a breakthrough moment, with passion, credibility and a bold plan, it excites people and creates a buzz .”

He added: "I'm not saying it's going to happen, but at least it gives them a fighting chance."

The extent to which the debate continues to revolve around Trump, despite Trump's decision to skip Milwaukee, is also in the hands of the debate moderators. They have said they plan to try to highlight the contrast between Republican candidates, including Trump.

(Video) News 6 political analyst's takeaways from first 2024 GOP presidential debate

While Walker thinks at least half of Republican voters are eager to turn the page, they don't have much appetite for attacking Trump. "It's like attacking your own family," he said.

The Role of Trump's Critics Without Trump

While others might prefer a debate without Trump, at least three of the eight candidates who took the stage Wednesday -- Pence, Christie and Hutchinson -- made criticism of the former president a priority. the heart of their campaign.

Denied the opportunity to confront Trump directly, their strategy is a big question mark.

Pence forged his own path as a staunch ideological conservative and pressed his rivals to take a clearer stance in favor of federal abortion restrictions -- and those aware of the potential for a general election backlash There may be hesitation in taking this position.

6 things to watch for in the 2024 Republican presidential primary | CNN Politics (2)

Republican presidential candidate and former Vice President Mike Pence campaigns for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on August 11, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa.

The former vice president's actions on January 6, 2021 could also form the basis for questions from Fox News hosts.

Christie is perhaps the biggest variable. He'll be the only candidate on stage Wednesday night who has already entered the presidential primary and has consistently outperformed his rivals -- just ask Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Highlighting South Carolina?

Scott and Hayley are two contestants from South Carolina looking for their breakout moment.

(Video) John King: This candidate was the proxy for Trump in GOP debate

Scott is a prolific fundraiser with an experienced campaign team. He's already at a big moment, delivering the Republican Party's 2021 answer to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address. As the only black Republican in the Senate, he could help the party expand its growing coalition of nonwhite conservatives.

6 things to watch for in the 2024 Republican presidential primary | CNN Politics (3)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott poses for a selfie at the start of the Fourth of July parade in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

However, he was also a happy fighter, delivering an upbeat message that sometimes gets lost in the debate arena.

Haley has also provided diverse new leadership for the GOP, but her campaign appears to believe her route to more votes is through Ramaswamy, whose approval ratings have soared in recent weeks .

Haley lashed out at the entrepreneur and political newcomer on Monday, calling his call to cut U.S. military aid to Israel "completely false."

Ramaswamy, meanwhile, tweeted videos of himself practicing tennis and exercising this week, saying the exercises were his preparation for the debate.

Is a breakthrough moment possible?

Trump skipped the debate, but didn't give up the spotlight. He sat down for a pre-recorded interview with fired former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, which is expected to be released around the time of the debate. A person familiar with the matter told CNN that the interview will be posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, as a rebuttal to the controversy.

Then, on Thursday, the spotlight will return to Trump as he turns himself in at the Fulton County Jail, the fourth such scene in as many months.

(Video) Watch highlights from the first GOP debate of 2024 election

The Trump campaign also tried to flood the airwaves with its aides and allies before and after the debate. However, Fox News notified the Trump campaign on Monday that some of the former president's surrogates would no longer be allowed in the debate's spin room because the former president did not participate.

Trump is heading to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he may also throw his own verbal grenades from the sidelines. He took to the social network Truth Social on Tuesday: "I'm going to be busy tomorrow night - enjoy!!!"

Without a leader on stage, it's not clear that success is possible. If those moments do happen, the cloud Trump is casting over the 2024 Republican race raises questions about whether his rivals will be able to deliver a strong showing on Wednesday night.

Does anyone have an "oops" moment?

While the major candidates have survived the primary debates of the recent presidential election cycle, those vying to be their party's best alternative have found their prospects eroded by poor debates.

During the 2012 Republican campaign, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry's "oops" moment famously forgot the name of the federal department he wanted to eliminate.

In 2016, Christie stopped Rubio's momentum by mocking him for his "25-second rote speech" about Barack Obama. When Rubio repeated the same line, Christie said, "That's it, everyone."

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts ended former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's hopes by a minute in a scathing tirade in the 2020 Democratic primary , eventually telling the crowd that appointing Bloomberg to oppose Trump would be "trading one arrogant billionaire for another." "."

Some 2024 Republican candidates have hinted that they may attack their opponents in the debate. Christie has beaten DeSantis in recent days. On Monday, Haley issued a statement criticizing Ramaswamy.

Whether or not either candidate faces the relentless attacks that have plagued presidential candidates in past cycles, and how they respond to them, could change the trajectory of the Republican race.

This story has been updated with more developments.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.

(Video) GOP presidential hopefuls spar in first 2024 debate


Where can I watch the Republican presidential debate? ›

The face-off will be streamed at FoxNews.com and on Fox Nation, which is Fox News Channel's subscription streaming platform. The online streaming platform Rumble will also show the debate, as an official R.N.C.

Where is the first Republican debate? ›

August 23, 2023 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The first Republican primary debate was aired by Fox News and held from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Central Time Zone on August 23, 2023, at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was moderated by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.

Who won the Republican national debate? ›

Winner: Donald Trump

The former president emerged from Wednesday night's debate as the clear winner, even though he wasn't there.

Can I watch Republican debate online? ›

How to Watch the Republican Debate Online. Tonight's GOP primary debate is airing through live TV exclusively on Fox News and Fox Business Network, but cord-cutters can still livestream the Republican debate online with a live TV streaming service.

Where was the presidential debate? ›

A field of eight challengers is gathered in Milwaukee for this first face-off, as the current front-runner, former President Trump, is notably absent. Our own Lisa Desjardins is at the debate and joins us now for a preview of what's to come. So, Lisa, you have been talking to the various campaigns all day.


1. GOP presidential contenders meet face-to-face for first time
(ABC News)
2. Donald Trump Jr. Drops Hammer On DeSantis After First 2024 Republican Presidential Primary Debate
(Forbes Breaking News)
3. LIVE: 2024 Republican Presidential Debate on Fox News
(David Pakman Show)
4. What to expect as GOP presidential candidates debate without Trump
(PBS NewsHour)
5. What to watch out for in Wednesday night's Republican debate
(13News Now)
6. 2024 GOP Primary Debate ft. No Donald Trump | MR LIVE
(The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder)


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