The first Republican debate, set to take place on Wednesday, will be missing a key player: Donald J. Trump. While his absence may seem like an advantage for the other candidates, it also poses challenges for them. The debate provides an opportunity for the candidates to make an impression and present themselves as a true alternative to Trump. However, any viral moments or attacks towards each other could be overshadowed by Trump’s dominating presence in the news cycle. Despite this, the candidates hope to use the debate to make the 2024 primary a contest rather than a coronation.
One of the main focuses of the debate is expected to be on Trump, even though he will not be physically present. The candidates will likely face questions about Trump’s criminal indictments, his questioning of the 2020 election, and his responsibility for the Capitol attack. Additionally, Trump plans to release a recorded interview with Tucker Carlson during the debate, further stealing the spotlight. This presents a challenge for the candidates as they try to make a case for themselves and differentiate from Trump.
Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is viewed as Trump’s strongest challenger, has a lot at stake in this debate. He has faced weeks of bad press, campaign shake-ups, and declining poll numbers. The debate is his opportunity to change the narrative and present himself as a viable alternative to Trump. However, a recent release of debate strategy documents has complicated his strategy. The documents suggest that DeSantis should go after his rivals and defend Trump, but following these instructions could make him appear inauthentic or controlled by others.
Overall, the debate presents a unique challenge for the candidates. While they have the opportunity to showcase themselves and make the race a true contest, they must also navigate the presence of Trump, even when he’s not physically there. The candidates must find a balance between addressing Trump and focusing on their own platforms and ideas. The outcome of the debate and how the candidates present themselves could have a significant impact on the 2024 primary race and the future of the Republican Party.