SHAPING UP: What the first Republican presidential debate stage will look like

by Summer Lane

Analysis by Summer Lane | Photo: Alamy

Wednesday’s first Republican primary debate will be a departure from what many GOP voters are used to. The nation’s leading GOP candidate, President Donald Trump, has chosen not to participate in the Republican debates leading up to next year’s primary, effectively clearing the way for one prospective candidate to vie for the position of runner-up.

President Donald Trump is holding 40 and 50-point leads in national GOP primary polling, and he confirmed on Monday that he would “NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES” in a comment posted to Truth Social.

He cited a whopping 46-point lead over Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., in the newest CBS Republican primary poll, adding that the public already knew “who I am & what a successful Presidency I had…”

With Trump out of the picture on Wednesday, MAGA Inc. spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt joked that Wednesday’s Republican event was simply “The 2024 Vice Presidential Debate.”

As it is, The Hill reported that Gov. Ron DeSantis will be placed in the center spot on the debate stage during Wednesday’s event, which will be held in Milwaukee. DeSantis has managed to hold onto a second-place position in most national GOP polls, but a few surveys have shown the governor slipping to third behind a popular new face, Vivek Ramaswamy.

In fact, a recent New Hampshire poll of the GOP primary showed DeSantis slipping to a shocking fourth place with 9 percent of Republican support in the coveted First-in-the-Nation State, behind Trump (34 percent), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (14 percent), and Ramaswamy (11 percent).

Aside from DeSantis, the nation will be watching Ramaswamy closely. The young businessman has emerged as a breakout conservative star in the Republican presidential primary.

Ramaswamy’s positions on policies are strongly America First, but the prospective candidate has been careful to maintain positive relations with the multi-million-strong MAGA voting bloc. Ramaswamy has avoided criticizing Trump and in many cases, has actually defended the president.

DeSantis, by contrast, has taken heat from Republicans for not only running against the man whose endorsement boosted his gubernatorial career but for recently referring to MAGA voters as “listless vessels.”

Other Republican contenders on the stage who will be hoping to score a breakout moment with GOP voters are former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (R).

Other participants will include former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and current North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R).

Neither Pence, Haley, Scott, Christie, or Hutchinson have managed to net more than subpar support for their presidential bid nationwide, consistently polling in single digits.

However, their presence on stage may provide a springboard for pivotal political talking points as Ramaswamy and DeSantis search for opportunities to stand out amid the crowded field of candidates.

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