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Inside the GOP Primaries: Trump’s Thumping, Rivals’ Rebuttals, and the Road to 2024

Roar Staff Writer Patrick Schnecker analyses the Republican Party’s unwillingness to take on Trump, and the risks this entails.

A Broad Base

Fourteen candidates, three debates, and one Speaker of the House later, the Republican Party’s primaries have been a whirlwind, to say the least. But with Trump being the beyond-favourite candidate to win the nomination, are the debates, interviews, rallies, and campaign efforts of the other candidates a complete waste of their time, or will they influence the potential next president’s cabinet picks?

With less than one year to go until the 2024 US Presidential election, the Grand Old Party (GOP) is down to its last five candidates competing for the nomination, with South Carolina Senator, Tim Scott, being the last one to drop out of the race following the third primary debate. These five are previous New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie; former US Ambassador to the United Nations and South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley; entrepreneur and “Anti-Woke” campaigner, Vivek Ramaswamy; Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis; and, although the term “competitor” may not be the most accurate representation of his current campaign when considering the polls, the 45th US President, Donald Trump. 

Unlike the Democratic Party, which has been struggling to find a replacement for incumbent Joe Biden, the Republicans are certainly not short of talent. As a matter of fact, they are also proving the party’s current state of major political diversity. Don’t believe it? Go watch the third Republican primary debate. 

The Third Debate 

Between “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels” getting attacked on foreign policy and her family’s alleged TikTok hypocrisy, Ramaswamy’s unrestrained slander of every single media outlet in the country, and DeSantis’ attempt to appear most ‘presidential’ – not because of his famous cowboy boots, but through his diplomatic mannerisms and his all-around popular answers – the third Republican primary debate did not lack a healthy balance of entertainment and information. 

A common consensus throughout the debate was that Trump was the right president at the right time, but that time has passed. Yet, despite their bids to praise themselves as better presidential candidates for 2024, their criticisms, and even general mentions, of the twice-impeached former president, were incredibly limited – in particular when looking at Ramaswamy and Haley. In a crude, pragmatic way, this makes sense; it has been widely suggested this confirms their wish to occupy seats in a Trump administration’s cabinet, should he win a second term in office.

Fear of the Known?

But why are these candidates, who are set to be the future of the Republican Party, ‘conceding’ their defeat to Trump if he is the single most important reason for their campaign’s downfall? Surely they realize that this time around, the former president is assumedly not running to save the GOP, nor is he running for the sake of the country, but due to his ego being damaged following his loss in 2020, or at least that is exactly what is being conveyed by his campaign strategy. 

Due to his unanimous dominance in the primary polls, Donald Trump is yet to be present at a single Republican primary debate. Despite some claiming that it would be a waste of time for him to attend these events and debate his fellow GOP representatives, another interpretation of this would argue that Trump is completely disrespecting the Republican Party’s primary process, undermining the party’s long-standing primary debate tradition, and, ultimately, putting himself way above the party. 

With that in mind, the only reasonable explanation for why GOP candidates are not actively vocal in criticizing the face of the Republican Party is fear – I mean can you blame them with Trump’s longstanding history of unconditionally embarrassing and even, arguably, “bullying” his opponents?

Life-or-Death for the GOP?

Nonetheless, there has been one figure in the GOP primaries who has not been afraid to call out Trump on a plethora of matters. Ron DeSantis has been Trump’s biggest rival within the party, with polls less than half a year ago suggesting that the Floridian Governor might actually defeat the New Yorker (obviously, that is no longer the case given Trump’s significant lead in the polls). DeSantis has still attacked Trump on a large number of issues, ranging from him not turning up to primary debates, to his legal troubles, and his recurring failed endorsements. Out of all Republicans still in the primary race, DeSantis has been Trump’s biggest public critic, all whilst proving his own worth by repeatedly emphasizing his constant victories as Governor of Florida. 

Ramaswamy indeed had a good point when mentioning that the Republican Party has lost every single election since 2017, labelling it a “party of losers”. However, maybe Ronna McDaniel isn’t the only person in the GOP establishment who should be held severely accountable for it. 

This year’s Republican primaries may be the most crucial ones for intra-party politics in decades. In all likelihood, Donald Trump will secure the GOP nomination, yet this does not mean that other candidates’ influence within the party will immediately disappear. Should Trump’s competitors choose to stand idly by for the next four years, waiting for his second term to end, for another shot at the White House, the Republican Party’s image may be too far damaged for any of them to stand a chance. 

With a potential second term for Trump in 2024 (and the consequences of putting a term-limited and unaccountable Trump in office), will this year’s GOP primary candidates stand firmly in support of their messiah or will they strive to be the ‘restart’ which the Republican Party is in such need of?

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