The big event of the week was the fourth Republican presidential debate, which was held in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Wednesday. Just four candidates appeared on stage: Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy. As with the first three debates, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump was a no show. Asa Hutchinson failed to qualify.
The debate was more a food fight than a reasoned policy discussion. The moderators asked about Gaza and Ukraine, but the conversation quickly went downhill. Ramaswamy accused Haley of being like Joe Biden “in that neither of them could state for you three provinces in Eastern Ukraine that they want to send our troops to actually fight for.” Besides being patronizing, Ramaswamy misstated both Haley’s and Biden’s positions. Neither has called for sending U.S. troops to fight in Ukraine. Christie accused Ramaswamy of “spewing nonsense” and being “the biggest blowhard in America.” Christie closed by demanding that Ramaswamy “stop insulting” Haley.
The Lincoln-Douglas debate it was not.
Doug Burgum announced on Monday that he was suspending his presidential campaign. The North Dakota governor qualified for the first two Republican presidential debates but failed to make the stage for the next two. On the way out, he called the Republican National Committee’s debate requirements “arbitrary criteria." Burgum was polling at 1 percent nationally and at 2 percent in Iowa and New Hampshire when he dropped out of the race.
CNN announced yesterday that it plans to host debates for the Republican presidential candidates before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. The January 10 debate will be held at Drake University in Des Moines. The January 21 debate will be held at St. Anselm College, just outside Manchester. The debates are not sanctioned by the Republican National Committee, which has sponsored all of the debates so far. ABC News and local affiliate WMUR plan to hold a Republican presidential primary debate at St. Anselm on January 18.
Meta announced last week that it deleted nearly 4,800 Facebook accounts based in China that were pretending to be Americans debating political issues. Meta said that it took down “this network before it was able to gain engagement from authentic communities on our apps.” According to the New York Times, “the campaign appeared intended not to favor one side or another but to highlight the deep divisions in American politics, a tactic that Russia’s influence campaigns have used for years in the United States and elsewhere.” This was the fifth Chinese network Meta has purged from its apps this year, highlighting the potential threat that foreign interference poses to the upcoming U.S. election.
The Candidates in Their Own Words
Ramaswamy defended his debate performance in a testy appearance on Fox & Friends yesterday The show’s co-host, Brian Kilmeade, said that Ramaswamy’s proposal to give Ukrainian territory to Russia to help secure the end of fighting was “so naïve.” Ramaswamy’s response was that “it is offensive that people would sooner use $200 billion of our resources to protect some other nation's foreign border–that's not a democracy–in fact we're not doing that effectively on our own border."
Haley sat down with NH Journal’s “Dinner Table Economics” to discuss, well, the economy. Most of the conversation covered domestic issues. She did argue that “Russia, China, and Iran never wanted us to be energy independent. We need to be energy dominant. Why? We are blessed with resources. Let’s use it to build up our economy.”
Russia, China, and Iran don't want us to tap into our natural resources. Let’s pull the EPA back, speed up permitting, and make America energy dominant. That’s our enemy’s biggest fear. pic.twitter.com/qGsiJjAZFB— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) December 2, 2023
DeSantis held a rally in Jasper County, Iowa, on Saturday. The event means that he has now spoken in every one of Iowa’s ninety-nine counties. He called Ronald Reagan “the greatest president, I think, since World War II.” He knocked how Trump staffed his administration and said that:
his praise for Xi Jinping, to me, I just disagree with that. They unleashed Covid in this world. They unleashed fentanyl in this country. He’s not somebody to be lauded or complimented. This guy is a dictator, and China is our number one adversary. So we’re gonna be very clear on that, and we’re gonna hold China accountable.”
DeSantis added: “I’m anti-Russia, I’m anti-Putin” and if I “could just snap my fingers and end it and put Russia back in the box, I would do that in a second.”
What the Pundits Are Saying
The latest issue of The Atlantic features a collection of articles addressing what to expect “If Trump Wins.” Anne Applebaum argued that he will withdraw the United States from NATO and that even if he doesn’t, his hostility to the idea of a common defense will gut the organization. Zöe Schlanger wrote that “it would in some ways be harder now for Trump to meaningfully alter climate policy than it was when he first came to office” but that he “could still do major damage.” Michael Schuman contended that “Trump’s return would jeopardize the united front that Biden has forged among the major democracies” in confronting China and thereby persuade Xi Jinping to “push even harder to promote China as a world leader.”
The New York Times compiled the many extreme comments that Trump has made during his run to return to the White House.
The Campaign Schedule
The Iowa caucuses, the first nominating event on the election calendar, are thirty-eight days away (January 15, 2024).
The South Carolina primary, the first Democratic primary, is fifty-seven days away (February 3, 2024).
Election Day is 333 days away.
Sinet Adous assisted in the preparation of this post.