Winners, Losers From the GOP Debate

Analysts say it was another good night for Trump
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2023 6:36 AM CDT
Winners, Losers From the GOP Debate
From left to right, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Tim Scott, argue a point during a Republican presidential primary debate Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.   (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Republican presidential candidates, minus frontrunner former President Trump, debated again on Wednesday night—and as in last month's debate in Milwaukee, Trump is being seen as perhaps the night's biggest winner. "This was another debate where the guy leading by 40 points was not onstage and took only the slightest of blows from those who were onstage," writes Andrew Propkop at Vox. "It was also another debate where there was no clear winner—no breakout star that could be elevated to Trump's main challenger." Verdicts on the candidates who were actually on the stage:

  • Ron DeSantis. The Washington Times puts the Florida governor among the losers, saying: "The man is in second place and not moving. He didn't do anything in this debate to change that calculus. And then there's that awkward forced smile." Liz Peek at Fox News, however, says DeSantis was a winner, "helped by low expectations," who may have cemented his hold on second place with some effective attacks on President Biden.
  • Nikki Haley. A winner, according to SE Cupp at CNN. The former UN ambassador and South Carolina governor "was laser-focused on exposing the weaknesses of the candidates who did bother to show up—more so than anyone else on the stage," Cupp writes.

    She pointedly took on Florid

  • Tim Scott. The senator from South Carolina was among the winners, with a lot more energy than in last month's debate and a willingness to mix it up with rivals, says Sally Goldenberg at Politico. "At times, he risked undermining his affable persona, but it was a risk worth taking as Scott needs to demonstrate to GOP donors that he's a reasonable alternative to Trump," Goldenberg says. "On Wednesday, he made progress on that front."
  • Vivek Ramaswamy. The biotech entrepreneur was considered one of the winners of the first debate but a lot of pundits put him in the losers' column this time around. He "struggled to handle the attacks his opponents threw at him on Wednesday evening," and there were plenty of them, per the Hill. One of the night's standout lines came from Haley, who told Ramaswamy "Every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber" as he tried to explain why he joined TikTok.
  • Chris Christie. Another loser, according to Andrew Stanton at Newsweek. With his outspoken criticisms of Trump, "it was no surprise that he again found himself in hostile territory Wednesday evening, and his attacks against the former president fell flat," with some audience members booing, Stanton writes.
  • Mike Pence. "The absence of sustained arguments about Trump himself and Jan. 6 stripped away the most interesting aspects of his candidacy, and what remained was just boredom and anachronism," says Ross Douthat at the New York Times.
  • Doug Burgum. The North Dakota governor also failed to make much of an impact. He was "in desperate need of a knockout performance ... and while the governor tried to steal the spotlight throughout the debate, he was unable to land a punch," according to the Hill.
  • The debate was held at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, and Adam Wren at Politico has another entry for the losers' column. "Even though I watched a few candidates wander over to his gravesite not far from the media file tent earlier in the day, I was struck by how little candidates namechecked the Gipper even on his home turf," he writes.
(More Republican debate stories.)

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