The GOP Debate is This Evening!


Oh, God, where do I start? I am covering this first GOP Debate of the 2024 Election season because it’s part of my job. But in my 11 years of media coverage of politics, I am struggling to find something exciting about this one, though there will be much that is noteworthy.

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Do I expect anything of use or revelatory to come from it? Yes and No. It remains to be seen what will fall where.

Eight of the 14 GOP candidates are slated to be on the stage. Listed from most relevant to least.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. While he’s the popular favorite and has almost as much of a cult following as former President Donald J. Trump, his poll numbers have him solidly in the No. 2 slot, but miles behind Trump in terms of polling. I find DeSantis comes off as a bit of an authoritarian, so we’ll see how he comes off in group debate play rather than against one person.

Vivek Ramaswamy. The young, savvy, Millennial tech entrepreneur has cut a swath for himself through his unorthodox moves in campaigning, and he has solidly edged out everyone else for No. 3 slot. What he lacks in actual executive experience he makes up for ideas, and frankly, the GOP could use some fresh ideas.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott. Personally, Scott should be getting more attention not only because of his background and message, but because he has a record outside of governing a state that should be looked at to see how it can be applied nationally.

Former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. The only female on the slate and because of her U.N. experience, she exudes that global appeal. Her governorship is very much yesterday’s news, so she’s drawing heavily on her U.N. record, for better or worse.

Former Vice President Mike Pence. Refusing to go gently into that good night, some donors with too much money and too much time on their hands think this man is the salvation for the Republican Party, and maybe the country—I’m sure they think lots about saving the party—I have my doubts if they care one whit about the country.

If you listen to any recent Pence interviews, the man cannot even save himself, let alone give a concrete answer on why he is throwing his former commander-in-chief under the bus. Put Pence down for the countdown clock of those who will be dropping out of the race sooner rather than later.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. He’s young, handsome, and has a solid conservative (and current) record as governor. This is no doubt a test run for 2028 or beyond. Reportedly, he was injured last night in a game of basketball, but no one is sure whether his injuries will preclude him from being on the stage this evening.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Look up the word “tool” in the urban dictionary, and I’m sure Christie’s picture is next to it. His ability to shift with whatever wind looks favorable is frankly, unmatched. Why would anyone want him as president? See the comments on VP Mike Pence above.

Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. I’ve said lots about the former Arkansas governor over at RedState. Even the people in his own state do not take him seriously, and frankly, neither does the rest of the GOP. Consider this a pat on the head or a returned favor and put him in the countdown clock category.

So, which candidates did not make the debate cut? Michigan businessman Perry Johnson, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, former Texas Congressman Will Hurd, right-wing radio host Larry Elder and Texas pastor Ryan Binkley.

Nobody knew these people were even running, and if anyone is really honest, nobody really cares.

Michigan businessman Perry Johnson is apparently trying to take a page out of Trump’s book, running as an outsider and a businessman who has successfully managed multimillion dollar entities, so why not put his hand to the federal government? Johnson attempted to run for Michigan governor in 2022 but was reportedly disqualified due to fraudulent and invalid petition signatures. Johnson recently claimed his not qualifying for the GOP debate was due to a “corrupt” process.


Mayor Suarez is playing the Marco Rubio Hispanic card to create diversity in the lineup and carve out his niche for either a future cabinet post or a regional run. Look for his next run to be for governor of Florida.

Will who? Un-Hurd left Congress in 2021 and was quickly forgotten. I still can’t remember him.

Larry Elder. Former KABC and Salem Radio host who ran for California governor in the Gavin Newsom Recall election in 2021. All he accomplished was to hijack the then-successful campaign from the grassroots and make it about himself, thus ensuring that Governor Gavin Newsom would skate removal—and he did.

But no, I’m not bitter.

I don’t take Larry Elder seriously running anything except his mouth. When he announced, I suspected he just wanted to knock out Tim Scott and steal his thunder. Elder, along with Will Un-Hurd say they are suing the GOP over being cut from the debate <insert *eyeroll* emoji>.

Newsflash: Tim Scott is on the stage and Larry Elder and Will Un-Hurd are not. That tells you all you need to know.

Ryan Binkley? Time for him to pick up his bible and just go home. Between Scott’s and Pence’s Christian-focused candidacies alone, Binkley does not have a snowball’s chance in hell.

Of course, the elephant in the room is the fact that Donald Trump will not be in the room. As the current front runner, he has earned his place, but he clearly stated on Truth Social that because he is so far ahead in the polls, and the American people know his proven record, he feels no need to participate in any of the “Debates” plural. Most of us see this language as an indication that he doesn’t plan on participating in any future ones, but who knows? Trump will always be Trump.

On the one hand, I think that’s a good thing. With the indictment fever and his “arraignment” in Fulton County, Georgia slated for Thursday, that will suck all the oxygen out of the debate; and frankly, what I am most interested in hearing is how these candidates will address those issues important to Americans, and how they handle being challenged on their B.S.; and some of them are nothing but straight up B.S. (Looking at you, Chris Christie)

On the other hand, no matter what his past record, he needs to be vetted and tested just like everyone else. One thing I truly despise and try to curb in myself is resting on one’s laurels. There is always fresh perspective, fresh growth, and fresh work to be done, and the laurels are meant to be a launch pad, not a resting place.

But, I digress.

I had thoughts on the GOP candidates and other news last week with New Orleans WGSO 990AM radio host Kristian Garic. First time on his show, and I hope I’m asked back—it was fun.

I will be live-blogging with my RedState colleagues and our RedState subscribers over there, and doing some summation on and here. My hot take: After tonight, the six will be whittled down to four by Monday.

In My Orbit with Jennifer Oliver O’Connell is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

What do you think?

Written by CONK!

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