The Republican candidates for president assembled minus President Trump for an event televised on the Fox Business channel last night. The event was held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley. The debate was moderated by Dana Perino, Stuart Varney and Ilia Calderón.
Who is Ilia Calderón and what was she doing there? She posed hostile questions in heavily accented English. “Why have you fleeped?” she asked Chris Christie in one of her immigration-related questions. I take it that Calderón’s role was to remind us of the questions a mainstream media figure would ask the Republican candidate in a general election. The New York Times now gives her its blessing and commendation. That says it all.
This was a terrible event. To say the least, the format is of questionable value. The moderators had a difficult job to do and performed it poorly.
If Trump’s popularity among the GOP faithful continues on its present trajectory, the race is over before it begins. As was the case with the Milwaukee event last month, the candidates on stage are fighting to survive long enough to see if Trump’s troubles ever take a toll among the faithful or Republican voters might be persuaded by sober second thoughts.
My minimalist comments on the candidates:
Doug Burgum: He is an impressive man, but he came across as an annoyance. Indeed, he might have been a comic figure if it weren’t for the annoyance factor. He really wanted to talk about software. Software is in his wheelhouse.
Chris Christie: His mission is to save the Republican Party from Donald Trump. I think it’s a worthy mission. His prepared line on “Donald Duck” was flat as North Dakota (that’s the Burgum effect on me). It was pathetic. Judged solely by his performance on stage, however, I think Christie was by far the most effective communicator last night. He could give the other candidates lessons on effective communication.
Mike Pence: Pence is a serious man. He did the right thing on January 6 despite the abuse of President Trump, but he isn’t a strong presidential candidate. He had a good line knocking Ramaswamy when he said he was “glad Vivek pulled out of his business deal in 2018 in China. That must have been about the time he decided to start voting in presidential elections.”
Tim Scott: After the Milwaukee event that he has staked his candidacy on his personal story. He builds the theme of American goodness on it. It’s a powerful theme that has the additional advantage of being true.
Vivek Ramaswamy: Vivek is a fake. Vivek is a mistake.
Nikki Haley: Haley got off the line of the night ridiculing Ramaswamy: “Every time I hear you I feel a little bit dumber.” However, Ramaswamy is not her competition.
Ron DeSantis: I thought he looked like a grouch and did best when he begged off an inappropriate question posed by Dana Perino. He is tightly wound with prepared remarks. He knows how to deal with the media. I have thought he was a strong candidate who would be able to press the case against President Biden and win. Now I am not so sure.