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GOP rivals battle for breakout moments on the debate stage

infographic by Jonah Sykes

Vying to be the next generation’s leader of the Republican Party, presidential candidates reach the make or break moment of their campaigns. Presented with the daunting task of distinguishing themselves from Donald Trump while simultaneously trying to attract his base, candidates fight to consolidate their party and overtake the so-far absent front-runner.

Standing center stage and closest to Trump in the polls, Ron DeSantis touted his record as Governor of Florid and pledged to further his unapologetically conservative agenda from the bully pulpit of the presidency.

"Our country is in decline,” DeSantis said. “We must reverse Bidenomics so that middle class families have a chance to succeed again. We’re going to become energy dominant. In Florida, we showed it could be done. I made promises, and I delivered.”

Closely following behind DeSantis in the polls is 38-year-old biotech CEO Vivek Ramaswamy, a blank slate for the American people, having never been elected to political office. “First, to address the question that is on everybody’s mind at home tonight,” Ramaswamy said. “‘Who the heck is this skinny guy with a funny last name, and what the heck is he doing in the middle of this debate stage?’ I’m not a politician. I’m an entrepreneur.”

Branding himself an “antiestablishment candidate,” Ramaswamy has proposed bold, conservative policy, pledging to abolish the FBI and redistribute 15 thousand of its employees across more specialized bureaus of the federal government.

Ramaswamy has further promised to shut down the Department of Education and enable greater school choice for parents. However, his continual alignment with Trump and defense against his four has consequently drawn criticism from other candidates, such as former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

“Whether you believe the criminal charges are right or wrong, [Trump’s] conduct is beneath the Office of President.”
-Chris Christie-

Christie previously held a position in Trump’s administration but broke with Trump in response to his denial of the 2020 election result. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, similarly, was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump but now calls for a “new generational, conservative leader.” Going against the grain of partisan politics, Haley argues the true causes of economic inflation.

“No one is telling the American people the truth,” Haley said. “Biden didn’t just do this to us. Our Republicans did this to us, too. Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence both voted to raise the deficit, and Donald Trump added 8 trillion to our debt. You tell me who the big spenders are.”

President Trump’s re-election campaign serves as an inflection point for the GOP. Republicans are divided over issues of election integrity, the Trump indictments and the events of Jan. 6. Joined by a new generation of voters, Republicans will decide whether to once again nominate Trump or consolidate around a new, conservative leader.


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