Republicans react to first GOP debate performances: ‘Vivek was the lightning rod’

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The first Republican presidential primary debate of the 2024 election cycle is in the books, and a number of Republican pundits, commentators, and lawmakers offered their perspectives on how they believe the eight candidates who took part in the event fared.

The debate – hosted by Fox News in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – featured eight Republicans who are seeking their party’s nomination for president.

Weighing in on the event featuring the GOP presidential hopefuls, Ohio Republican Sen. J.D. Vance, who won election to the upper chamber in the 2022 midterm elections, called for an end to the ‘charade’ of debates and for Republicans to back former President Donald Trump in 2024.

‘A lot of the people on stage are nice people but none of them is Trump and none will win the nomination,’ Vance wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. ‘Let’s end this charade and stop wasting Republican money attacking our inevitable nominee. Donald Trump for president.’

‘I think Nikki Haley was the best establishment candidate. … I think in the end, Christie is the best talker – he’s probably the best debater up on stage. But actually connecting with the Republican electorate it’s DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy,’ Laura Ingraham said during a post-debate appearance on Fox News Channel’s ‘Hannity.’

‘After the end of this whole debate, did any of them really, you know, make the case to the American people that they would be better than Trump to win the nomination? I think that’s a hard one. Having moments, that’s one thing. But actually having a record … the only one that comes close is DeSantis, and I think he got better as the night went on,’ she added.

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer responded to the debate and insisted that Trump wouldn’t like how well Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis performed.

‘Trump [can’t] like what a good night DeSantis is having,’ Fleischer wrote on X.

In a post shared on X, Monica Crowley, the former Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of the Treasury under Trump, suggested that the eight candidates who took the stage in Milwaukee Wednesday evening are coming off as ‘desperate.’

‘All of these candidates are trying way too hard to show they’re a tough-guy,’ Crowley wrote. ‘They want to be Trump-esque fighters, but they can’t pull it off – and it’s coming off as woefully desperate.’

In a post shared to X, Ben Domenech, who co-founded The Federalist, a conservative online magazine, insisted that entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy was a ‘lightning rod’ in the first debate.

‘Vivek was the lightning rod in this debate. He’s so disliked by the other candidates, he took all the incoming fire,’ Domenech said. ‘DeSantis emerged not just unscathed, but solidly improved.’

Former ‘The View’ co-host Meghan McCain also weighed in following the debate, declaring former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as the ‘winner.’

‘[Nikki Haley] is the debate winner tonight. Well done,’ McCain wrote on X.

Mollie Hemingway, who serves as editor-in-chief of The Federalist, took aim at Haley’s Ukraine support.

‘Sing-songy Nikki Halley says American taxpayers should stop complaining about US being the primary funder of the proxy war in Russia that has no strategy for success,’ Hemingway wrote on X.

Rich Lowry, the editor-in-chief of the National Review, also provided his take on the debate, saying on X that DeSantis was ‘solid’ and Haley ‘outshone’ South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott.

‘DeSantis was solid, hit all his themes, and took no incoming fire—he helped himself. Vivek was preposterous, got swatted down by Haley, but won exchanges w/ Pence and Christie and had some tremendous answers—his moment will continue,’ Lowry said. ‘Nikki Haley was good and outshone Tim Scott.’

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