By Daniel Baldwin
August 22, 2023
(Views expressed by guest commentators may not reflect the views of OAN or its affiliates.)
Much has changed from August 2015 to August 2023. As the Republican party is set to host the first 2024 presidential primary debate, one key factor remains the same: 45th President Donald Trump is the talk of the town. Trump took center stage on Aug. 6, 2015 as the unexpected leader in the polls and carved up his competition, definitively winning the night.
“It was the most dramatic opening to a presidential debate in recent memory—and Donald Trump stole the show before he’d even said a word,” CNN wrote the following day.
Trump set the tone throughout the night with his , going toe to toe with both moderators and other candidates.
“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct,” Trump told a cheering audience.
Trump did not sugarcoat the gravity of the situation, boldly explaining why the U.S. needed a leader who was unafraid of speaking in plain language.
“When you have people that are cutting Christians heads off, when you have a world at the border and in so many places that it’s medieval times, it almost has to be as bad as it ever was in terms of the violence and the horror,” Trump said. “We don’t have time for tone. We have to go out and get the job done.”
His message resonated. Trump went into the night leading in the polls, and he walked out still the clear frontrunner.
Removing Trump, the difference between 2015 and now could not be greater. In that first 2016 debate, there were so many candidates the RNC had to hold a secondary debate with seven lower polling candidates. Combining both debate stages, a total of 17 candidates made their pitch to the American public. Included in that group were Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Lindsey Graham. The main stage also featured Governors Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and John Kasich.
That is not the reality in 2023. The debate stage in Wisconsin will not feature prominent, currently serving elected officials. All four senators from 2015 are still in office with recognizable and respected brands, yet they all chose to sit this round out.
Wednesday night will showcase eight candidates – many of whom are years removed from serving in office. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t been in office for more than five years. Nikki Haley left her position as United Nations Ambassador on Dec. 31, 2018.
Thirty-eight-year old entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy is building momentum and turning heads as the first millennial Republican presidential candidate. But he has never held public office.
Arguably, the most notable candidate on stage is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. But DeSantis has struggled to gain any momentum in the polls since entering the race. A recent poll even showed him fall to fourth place in New Hampshire, a crucial early nominating state.
And that is the precise reason why Rubio, Cruz, Paul, and Graham all steered clear of the primary this go around. Trump is the de-facto Republican nominee, and they know it. With the 45th president holding a seemingly insurmountable lead in every national and state poll, they knew challenging him would only result in destroying their own brand and image.
On or off the debate stage, Trump will dominate the headlines. It was Trump’s show in 2015. It’s Trump’s show in 2023. And that will not change any time soon.