After the first Republican primary debate of the 2024 election cycle, it’s evident that former President Donald Trump’s decision to skip the event was endorsed by his supporters and some critics. Noteworthy performances were delivered by candidates like Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy. However, no candidate, including Ron DeSantis, managed to distance themselves convincingly from Trump or persuade his followers to abandon him due to his legal issues. Trump maintains a significant lead in polls over DeSantis, despite facing federal indictments.
Trump’s absence compelled the Republican field to revolve around him, as observed by debate host Bret Baier. Candidates who didn’t align with Trump, like Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson, are perceived to have slim chances of winning the nomination.
A significant debate moment occurred when candidates were asked if they would still support Trump as the nominee if he’s convicted in his indictments. Ramaswamy and DeSantis both raised their hands, which Trump later applauded. His decision not to attend likely shaped the dynamics of this portion, sparing him potential criticisms.
Instead of participating, Trump engaged in an interview with Tucker Carlson, garnering substantial viewership. Meanwhile, Democrats view the debate as a step toward a possible rematch between President Joe Biden and Trump. Democrats anticipate that Trump’s legal troubles could erode his support in the general election, even if they might aid him in the primary.
Biden’s campaign focuses on economic progress and portrays Republican candidates as undermining such progress by favoring the wealthy. Biden refrains from directly criticizing Trump’s legal issues but subtly responds to his potential opponent’s claims, as seen in Nikki Haley’s statements regarding the federal deficit.