At this point, it’s unclear that any Republican presidential candidate who’s not named Donald Trump has an actually serious shot at winning the party’s nod for the White House for next year’s election.
Nonetheless, some of the lower-rung contenders made their way to Milwaukee for a Wednesday debate, the first in the contest. Trump himself didn’t participate, though he’s certainly occupied, as he will be surrendering to local authorities in Georgia for processing on Thursday after facing criminal charges for an alleged conspiracy to attack the state’s election results from 2020.
Mehdi Hasan, a journalist with MSNBC, had harsh words for the GOP field, condemning the gaps in the basic structure of what the candidates were presenting to Americans. In one notable example, Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis somehow managed to bring up an imagined scenario in which he fires Dr. Anthony Fauci — a public health expert who actually left government service last year. Also repeatedly mentioned was Hunter Biden, a son of the current president whose allegedly corrupt business dealings have simply not been substantively connected to the current commander-in-chief in basic financial terms. And DeSantis struggled to answer whether he felt that Mike Pence acted appropriately on January 6, when as vice president he went along with certifying the 2020 results.
“The debate was hosted by Fox News — and most of the eight contenders seemed intent on performing for the Fox Cinematic Universe rather than for the American public,” Hasan wrote. “Multiple candidates — DeSantis, Scott, even Chris Christie — screamed “Hunter Biden!” at different points. There was the constant demeaning of transgender people. The nonsensical threats of a war against … Mexico. The brazen lies about Democrats’ allowing abortion up until “the date of birth.” Forget a vision for America. These people have no vision for the Republican Party — a party that lost the House in 2018, lost the presidency and the Senate in 2020 and only narrowly regained the House in 2022.”
Hasan called the night “another reminder that the Republican Party of the United States is not a normal center-right or conservative party.” Should any of these contenders be taken as serious if they can’t even make substantial inroads against a front-runner currently facing over 90 accusations of criminal misconduct?