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Former President Trump announced Sunday that he would not be participating in the Republican primary debates, opting instead to do a pre-recorded interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, set to air Wednesday evening as his rivals were duking it out on stage in Milwaukee.
As Spencer reported, that interview dropped a few minutes before the first GOP debate began. The 45th president was eager about opportunity to steal the show not only from other GOP presidential candidates, who are trailing him by double digits in the polls, but also from Fox News.
The interview began with Carlson giving Trump an opportunity to explain why he’s not on the debate stage.
“Well you know a lot of people have been asking me that and many people said you shouldn’t do them, but you see the polls have come out and I’m leading by 50 and 60 points and you know, some of them are at 1 and 0 and 2, and I’m saying, do I sit there for an hour or two hours…and get harassed by people that shouldn’t even be running for president? Should I be doing that? And a network that isn’t particularly friendly to me frankly, you know, they were backing Ron DeSanctimonious like crazy and now they’ve given up on him, it’s a lost cause. … I just felt it would be more appropriate not to do the debate…”
The 46-minute conversation amassed about 230 million views so far, with about 75 million views coming in just the first 20 minutes. According to X, this number includes anyone who who views a post – those who scroll past, watch a little bit, and those who watch the entire interview. If it’s seen more than once, multiple views are counted.
A statement released from the Trump campaign after the debate said the former president won.
“President Trump won this evening’s Republican debate in dominating fashion,” said the statement attributed to Trump campaign senior adviser Susie Wiles. “More people watched President Trump’s interview with Tucker Carlson than the rest of the field on the debate stage combined. Tonight, voters saw a clear contrast between President Trump engaging in a thoughtful policy discussion about what his second term will look like versus 90-second canned sound bites and platitudes from the debate stage.”
Wiles’ statement continued: “What is clear after the dust settles: none of the other candidates looked ready to take on Crooked Joe Biden. Only one leader can Make America Great Again, and that’s President Donald J. Trump.”
Top 5 Moments of the First GOP Debate
By Mia Cathell | Townhall.com
What we thought would be a DeSantis dog-pile turned into a Ramaswamy pile-on dominating the GOP debate stage at Wednesday night’s RNC showdown, as the Florida governor floated idly in the background. But, the buzz boded well for Vivek Ramaswamy: The flashy Republican newcomer ended the night winning the Google Trends online-search contest (per WaPo).
DeSantis didn’t bomb, nor did he make a splash bigger than a dip in the pool, either. Ramaswamy gained traction trying to manifest Trump’s sway over the MAGA base. Overall, the night still made itself out to be a few hours of entertaining TV.
Here’s a breakdown of the five most memorable moments that spiced up the evening:
1. Chris Christie Devours Vivek Ramaswamy
As Townhall’s bingo card predicted, conservative behemoth Chris Christie went full Jersey and ate Ramaswamy for breakfast. In the first quarter of the program, Christie ripped into Ramaswamy for sounding too robotically scripted and Barack Obama-esque.
“Hold on! I’ve had enough already tonight of a guy who sounds like ChatGPT standing up here,” Christie said of Ramaswamy, referring to a human-like chatbot that spits out scripts written by artificial intelligence. Then, mid-sparring match, Christie called out Ramaswamy for plagiarizing Barack Obama’s “skinny kid with a funny name” schtick at his breakout 2004 DNC debut.
“The last person in one of these debates, Bret, who stood in the middle of the stage and said, ‘What’s a skinny guy with an odd last name doing up here?’ was Barack Obama. And I’m afraid we’re dealing with the same type of amateur,” Christie countered.
Ramaswamy responded: “Come over and give me a hug just like you did to Obama and you’ll help elect me just like you did to Obama.” Earlier, in a self-introduction, Ramaswamy claimed he was addressing “the question that is on everybody’s mind at home tonight,” before lifting the well-known “line for the ages” from Obama’s signature speech that rallied Democrats together.
2. Vivek Ramaswamy Drops Truth Bomb About ‘Climate Change’
Christie’s zinger followed moments after Ramaswamy characterized himself as a dark-horse outsider who’s the only one present not “bought and paid for,” so that’s why he can say, “The climate-change agenda is a hoax!” Ramaswamy’s remark was in response to Fox News moderator Martha MacCallum asking the crowded field of candidates for a show of hands on who believes human behavior has caused “climate change.” (Asa Hutchinson began to raise an unsure hand while Ron DeSantis deflected.)
To which, Ramaswamy urged, “Let us be honest as Republicans,” as his GOP opponents reacted with woahs and shouts of “That’s ridiculous!” Eliciting boos from the audience as well, the 38-year-old millionaire entrepreneur, undeterred, continued to declare: “And so, the reality is more people are dying of bad climate-change policies than they are of actual climate change.”
3. Nikki Haley Tussles With Vivek Ramaswamy Over Foreign Policy
Ramaswamy vowed he’d cut off the billions of federal dollars funding the war efforts in Ukraine, with a redirected focus on fixing domestic issues ailing America, such as the swarm of illegal aliens overwhelming our southern border with Mexico.
“Today, Ukraine is not a priority for the United States of America, and I think that the same people who took us into the Iraq War, the same people who took us into the Vietnam War, you cannot end it. You’re not starting another no-win war. And, I do not want to get to the point where we’re sending our military resources abroad when we could be better using them here at home to protect our own borders, protect the homeland,” Ramaswamy said, eliciting a round of jeers from the crowd.
When asked by Bret Baier if he would not support an increase of U.S. aid to Ukraine, if elected, Ramaswamy confirmed: “I would not, and 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.”
“And, I find it offensive that we have professional politicians on the stage who will make a pilgrimage to Kyiv, to their pope, [Ukraine’s President] Zelenskyy, without doing the same for the people in Maui or the south side of Chicago,” Ramaswamy said.
“I think that we have to put the interests of Americans first, secure our own border instead of somebody else’s,” Ramaswamy went on, stressing isolationism. “And the reality is: This is how we project strength by making America strong at home,” he added.
That’s when Nikki Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under the Trump administration, accused Ramaswamy of wanting to “hand Ukraine to Russia” and “let China eat Taiwan.” Ukraine is the “first line of defense for us,” Haley stated.
“You are choosing a murderer [Russia’s President Vladimir Putin] over a pro-America country,” Haley alleged.
Ramaswamy retorted, “I wish you success on your future career on the boards of Lockheed and Raytheon,” citing two large U.S. weapons manufacturers. “Under your watch, you will make America less safe. You have no foreign policy experience and it shows,” Haley shot back, earning a chorus of cheers in the arena, where the raucous applause drowned out Ramaswamy’s reply.
4. Mike Pence Doing ‘The Right Thing’ on Jan. 6
Most of the primary challengers believe Mike Pence “did the ring thing” when he certified Biden’s 2020 election win over Trump.
“Mike did his duty. I’ve got no beef with him,” DeSantis, dancing around the question moments ago, said. “But, here’s the thing: Is this what we’re gonna be focusing on going forward?! The rehashing of this?! I’m telling you, the Democrats would love that!”
“Mike Pence stood for the Constitution,” Christie said. “And, he deserves not grudging credit, he deserves our thanks as Americans for putting his oath of office and the Constitution of the United States before personal, political and unfair pressure. “
“I do think that Vice President Pence did the right thing, and I do think that we need to give him credit for that,” Haley agreed.
Pence had pressed for a direct answer after DeSantis, pivoting to discuss the “weaponization” of the U.S. Department of Justice, opted to skip over the question. “This election is not about Jan. 6, 2021. This is about Jan. 20, 2025, when the next president is going to take office […] We’ve gotta focus on our future. We’ve gotta focus on reversing the decline of our country,” DeSantis said, recalling what he learned in the military as a U.S. Navy Seal: “focus on the mission above all else” and “you can’t get distracted.” DeSantis urged, “We’ve gotta look forward and we gotta make sure we’re brining the message that can win in 2024.”
5. On Mike Pence Pardoning Trump
Ramaswamy posed a question of his own, prodding Pence if he would promise to pardon Trump upon entering office.
“Join me in making a commitment that on Day One, you would pardon Donald Trump,” Ramaswamy challenged Pence. “I’m the only candidate on the stage with the courage to actually say it. That is how we move our nation forward and turn the page…”
“I don’t know why you assume that Donald Trump will be convicted of these crimes,” Pence told Ramaswamy, which is “the difference between you and me,” noting he’s “actually” given pardons as governor of Indiana. “It usually follows a finding of guilt and contrition by the individual that’s been convicted […] But, no one’s above the law. And, President Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence that every American is entitled to, and we will make sure and extend that to him.”
“If I’m president of the United States, we’ll give fair consideration to any pardon request,” Pence interjected.
“Look, I made it clear: I had hoped that the issues surrounding the 2020 election and the controversies around Jan. 6 had not come to this, had not come to criminal proceedings…” Pence said. “But, the American people deserve to know that the president asked me in his request that I reject or return votes unilaterally, a power that no vice president in American history had ever exercised or taken. He asked me to put him over the Constitution. And, I chose the Constitution, and I always will.”
Trump is currently facing a slew of charges across four indictments and multiple jurisdictions. In the federal case related to Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 race, Pence could serve as a key witness against the former president.