Crucial GOP Debate Sets a 2024 Scene Without Trump

J. Scott Applewhite

A squad of Republican presidential candidates who desperately need national exposure to party voters will gather in Milwaukee this week for a political reality show that Fox News calls a debate.

It will be viewed by millions like the Kentucky Derby. Media will proclaim a winner of this horse race; they desperately hope it's someone new to simulate movement in the country's longest presidential race ever and drama in a two-year race. In a couple of weeks, they'll pounce on new polls and find something significant. And soon, few will remember anything about this week.

Such political debates have become regular features of U.S. elections at all levels since that historic night in 1960 when appearance triumphed over substance.

But these encounters shaped for media are not really in the tradition of Lincoln-Douglas. They are TV shows in which news anchors ask gotcha questions, looking for any quick headline and chasing any apparent hypocrisy. 

The candidates steer their answers off the questions and onto their main message points for the largest audience they’ve ever had.

One or two will utter a practiced zinger that will get them mentioned in news dispatches.

Fortunately, the best showman in the field – just ask him – will not be on the Milwaukee stage. He’ll be on another program answering questions from another showman who used to be on Fox News. 

Polls – remember, they’re just snapshots of one moment -- have Donald Trump far ahead at this early point. Ask him that, too. So, he’s opted to take his act elsewhere. 

That’s a good thing for the country. Trump doesn’t like to share the spotlight. And if you don’t know where he stands on anything by now, you probably shouldn’t be voting.

Media love to hate him. They get aroused any time he speaks. And he knows (and enjoys) it. 

In fact, there’s an invisible media collusion underway to feature Trump and ignore others who might be a greater threat to the Big Guy or Robert L. Peters or whatever code name he’s using on his current vacation.

So, they’ll have copious coverage of what Trump does and says with the most negative interpretations attached, as well as a drumbeat of indictment reminders.

Skipping the opening debate is a risky choice for any frontrunner. Americans want to see candidates compete for their votes. 

Trump forfeits his time in front of millions to be divided instead among the others, who will make the most of it. The tortoise-and-the-hare fable comes to mind. 

But this is show biz, and Trump is the Evil Knievel of politics. Reality show derring-do worked for him in 2015-16. Back then, however, he was refreshingly new among 16 party stodge-pots.

Trump’s tumultuous act is frayed now. But he won’t acknowledge that. If he toned down his schtick and talked about what Americans need over his own grievances, Joe Biden would be quickly dispatched to mumble on the beach the rest of his lying life.

Enough people had grown tired of Trump by 2020. He became only the third incumbent president in modern times to be handed reelection rejection.

He can’t or won’t acknowledge Trump fatigue. So, it must be a conspiracy. Whether he believes that or not, it’s gotten him into serious legal troubles.

Of all things, in that 2020 cycle, voters disregarded the obvious mental and physical decay of Joe Biden, who turns 81 this fall, and elected him as the most familiar, least threatening one they thought they knew.

They didn’t. And now, as the befuddled president’s decline continues before our daily eyes, we’re stuck as a nation for at least 74 weeks with a global embarrassment who gets lost exiting stages and needs staff reminders to say “Hello” when entering meetings.

We’re in a pickle as a country. Fears grow that our democracy is endangered from within. Anger and distrust abound. And clever forces are at work to undermine traditional values and common sense.

Polls show very few want Trump-Biden 2.0. Both men are so old. Trump loyalists stick with their guy no matter what, including legal indictments. And he knows it. As loud as they are, however, they’re not numerous enough to win a national election, leaving their leader willfully to seek a second martyrdom.

This week’s debate is actually just a one-night TV news special, which is how most Americans experience modern history now. Remember 9/11 live? 

Sadly, too much campaign coverage is centered on Biden and Trump. Both have serious problems. But because this week’s debate will offer glimpses into possible alternatives and future Republican Party leaders, it has become less unimportant than such events usually are.

Thankfully, RedState VIP readers are known for their investment and abiding interest in understanding. If you feel committed already, I urge you to leave your campaign brochures on the table. 

Honestly examine what you hear and see from the wannabes in this week’s exhibition game and the next one on Fox Business Sept. 27 from the Reagan Library.

This isn’t just your desire to be on a winning team. The country’s immediate direction and distant future are at stake, selecting the best candidate to rid us of the corrupt Biden crowd, whatever code names they use.

Anyone can Google each candidate and see where they stand on a range of issues. I recommend that. 

For starters, here are a few select quotes, edited for clarity and length, gathered from recent public and social media statements:

Ron DeSantis— (Video)

I hope we’ll be focused on the future of the country (in the debate), rather than the other static…A lot of the static is about looking backwards, which is not going to help us secure the border, not going to help these middle-class families struggling [to] even afford groceries. Not going to help us rein in these federal agencies that have abused their powers...

The Founding Fathers designed three branches of government. Executive, legislative, judicial. They did not design a fourth branch of government, an administrative state, that’s grown to exercising authority over us with impunity….

We now have tens of thousands of people dying from fentanyl overdoses because the border is not secure. The cartels have more control over our border than we do...

As president, we'll declare a national emergency, I'm going to send military down there. We'll build a wall. We'll do Remain in Mexico, stop the invasion...

Cartels are akin to foreign terrorist organizations, killing our people. We're going to authorize the use of deadly force against the cartels. We're not putting up with it anymore...

We need to get a nominee who can beat Biden, and end the weaponization of federal power through the DOJ, the FBI. Christopher Wray gets sent packing. You're going to see the DOJ cleared out. We're going to ensure a single standard of justice in this country again, and I can say that with credibility because I've done that in the state of Florida...

Nikki Haley— (Video)

I’m an accountant. I’m a military spouse. I’m a mom. I understand we’ve got debt issues. We’ve got crime issues. We’ve got border issues, We’ve got education issues. And we’ve got China literally beating us every day. I don’t have time for the theatrics…

Look, we have a country to save, and I don’t trust anybody else to do it…

There are no saints in Congress. Republicans and Democrats both love to spend your money…

Biden officials KNEW Palestinian aid could fund terrorists—they did it anyway. Under my administration, we will cut every cent in foreign aid to terrorists and countries that hate us.

 Vivek Ramaswamy—   (Video)

1. God is real. 2. There are two genders. 3. Human flourishing requires fossil fuels. 4. Reverse racism is racism. 5. An open border is no border. 6. Parents determine the education of their children. 7. The nuclear family is the greatest form of governance known to mankind. 8. Capitalism lifts people up from poverty. 9. There are three branches of the U.S. government, not four. 10. The U.S. Constitution is the strongest guarantor of freedoms in history….

The corrupt federal police just won’t stop until they’ve achieved their mission: eliminate Trump. This is un-American and I commit to pardoning Trump for this indictment. 

Donald Trump isn’t the cause of what happened on Jan 6. The real cause was systematic, pervasive censorship of citizens in the year before. If you tell people they can’t speak, they scream. If you tell people they can’t scream, they tear things down.

Tim Scott—  (Video)

On my first day as Commander-in-Chief, the strongest nation on Earth will stop retreating from our own southern border. If you don’t control your back door, it’s not your house. And if our southern border is unsafe and insecure, it’s not our country…

America’s children should be learning ABCs, not CRT. The radical Left wants to indoctrinate our children, not educate them. We will fight to ensure that America’s kids are learning how to read and write, not about gender transition and sexual identity. 

We must demand excellence in our schools, which means giving every family a choice, every parent a voice, and every child a chance…

Peace through strength can only be achieved if we have the most capable fighting force on the planet. My father and my brothers have 85 years of combined military service between them. When I am President, our service members will have every tool they need, and our veterans will have every resource they deserve.


The Enduring Wound Biden Has Inflicted on Our Country 

Joe Biden's Inexplicable and Disturbing Attitude Toward China 

If Trump Skips the Fox Debate, That's Fine! We Can Watch the Adults in Action 


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