DeSantis Calls Out Decline, Vivek and Pence Spar – Republicans React

The first Republican presidential debate officially launched the 2024 election Wednesday night. Eight contenders for the GOP nomination took the stage, leading to some fiery and memorable moments. Former Vice President Mike Pence and political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy clashed over a variety of issues; all of the candidates sparred over continued funding to Ukraine, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was asked his opinion on UFOs, and Governor Ron DeSantis largely stood above the fray.

Viewers in the audience and on social media continue to disagree over the night’s biggest winners and losers.

Right out of the gate, moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum shared a clip from the viral hit song “Rich Men North of Richmond” by singer Oliver Anthony. “His lyrics speak of alienation, of deep frustration with the state of government and of this country,” MacCallum said, before offering DeSantis the chance to give his thoughts.

“Our country is in decline,” DeSantis said, but adding that “decline is not inevitable.”

“It’s a choice. We need to send Joe Biden back to his basement […]

We cannot succeed as a country if you are working hard and you can’t afford groceries, a car or a new home while Hunter Biden can make hundreds of thousands of dollars on lousy paintings,”

DeSantis also blamed Congress for spending “trillions and trillions of dollars,” and said the country urgently needs to lower gas prices. The Governor’s comments drew loud cheers from the audience.

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Former Vice President Mike Pence and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy were standing center stage along with DeSantis. With GOP frontrunner Donald Trump absent from the debate stage, Vivek attempted to imitate the former President’s brash style. At one point, Pence and Ramaswamy sparred over whether they would pardon the former President if elected.

“Now is not the time for on the job training,” Pence said, taking a shot at Ramaswamy’s political inexperience. “We don’t need to bring in a rookie.”

Ramaswamy accused Pence of reciting a “memorized, pre-prepared slogan.”

“The reality is you have a bunch of people, professional politicians, super-PAC puppets following slogans handed over to them by their 400-page super PACs last week.”

“Vivek was the lightning rod in this debate,” said Ben Domenech of ‘The Spectator.’ “He’s so disliked by the other candidates he took all the incoming fire. DeSantis emerged not just unscathed, but solidly improved.”

“DeSantis was solid, hit all his themes, and took no incoming fire—he helped himself,” opined writer Rich Lowry.

“Vivek was preposterous, got swatted down by Haley, but won exchanges w/ Pence and Christie and had some tremendous answers—his moment will continue Nikki Haley was good and outshone Tim Scott.”

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During the foreign policy segment of the evening, the candidates also widely disagreed on whether the country should continue to fund Ukraine. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was asked about comments by DeSantis, who referred to the conflict as a “territorial dispute” and warned against intervening.

Haley, Pence, and Christie ardently defended continued support to Ukraine, while DeSantis and Ramaswamy argued for putting American interests first.

“I think that this is disastrous, that we are protecting against an invasion across somebody else’s border when we should use those same military resources to prevent the invasion of our own southern border here in the United States of America,” Ramaswamy said.

During the “lightning round” of the debate, candidates where given 30 seconds to respond to a specific question asked by Baier and MacCallum. The audience laughed when Christie got a softball on unidentified flying objects.

“I get the UFO question. Come on, man!” Christie told the moderators, looking frustrated.

“Just [because] I’m from New Jersey you ask me about UFOs and martians—we’re different but we’re not that different” he said.

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