WASHINGTON — We learned from the third GOP presidential debate on Wednesday that none of the five rivals on the debate stage did anything to knock former President Donald Trump off his trajectory to win the Republican presidential nomination.
Actually, they did Trump a favor, basically ignoring all the criminal charges he is facing and the threat to democracy he poses if he wins a second term. What a gift.
Trump skipped this debate in Miami as he did the others, instead holding a rally in Hialeah, a suburb that’s home to an important Florida voting bloc, Cuban-Americans.
Takeaways from the two-hour debate on NBC with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy:
Context and bottom line
This debate is taking place as the latest poll, from CNN, shows Trump running away with 61% of Republican or
Scott got a lot of speaking time, but didn’t find a way to break out. With the first votes just 68 days away in the Iowa caucus, it’s hard to see how he hangs on. Christie knows his stuff and for some reason, was light on his usual Trump criticism, a feature in previous debates.
Why you and not Trump was the first question. DeSantis called out Trump for not debating, but that’s mild. No others said much to make any case against Trump. And it’s not for lack of material. Unbelievable.
On antisemitism, defending Netanyahu
There were multiple questions stemming from the Israel-Hamas war and the rise of antisemitism, in part because the Republican Jewish Coalition was a debate co-sponsor and the RJC executive director, Matt Brooks, was allowed to ask two questions.
All five strongly supported the right of Israel to defend itself and root out and destroy Hamas militants in Gaza, who killed 1,400 civilians in Israel on Oct. 7 and took more than 200 hostages.
None were critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or called on him — as the Biden administration has done — to seek a pause to provide more humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza. What was telling was the lack of mention or any compassion for the heavy loss of Palestinian lives. To be pro-Israel does not mean to ignore the human cost civilians are paying in this conflict.
All of them deplored, rightly, the rise of antisemitism in the U.S., especially on college campuses. But their remarks lacked nuance or acknowledgment that another byproduct of the war in the U.S. is an increase in Islamophobia. DeSantis blasted Biden for his newly created strategy to combat Islamophobia when antisemitism is “out of control.” It is not either/or, and DeSantis came across as bigoted.
Ramaswamy most annoying, ‘just scum’
I understand Ramaswamy has a following, but he’s rude, condescending and juvenile. In a discussion about whether TikTok should be banned, Ramaswamy hit Haley because her daughter used TikTok. “Leave my daughter out of it,” she shot back. “You’re just scum.”
Abortion and the abortion-related wins Democrats had Tuesday in elections in Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky
Republicans wanted to get rid of Roe v. Wade and now they are paying for it with Democratic wins on Tuesday in Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia stemming from the GOP crackdowns on abortion. Asked about the path forward when it comes to a federal abortion ban or limits, Haley, the only woman contender, is a lonely voice invoking political reality. It will take 60 votes in the Senate to get a bill passed. Anything close to a ban will not get 60 votes. She sensibly advocates for consensus. And amen, sister, when she says, “stop the judgments. We don’t need America divided on this issue.”