Were The Four Strikes Not Enough?

by Elpidio R. Estioko

Former President Donald Trump was indicted for the fourth time for crimes committed against the U.S. Constitution, but it seems that it did not deter his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination for 2024!

In fact, As I See It, it even bolstered his chances to be the party’s nominee.

Even if he did not participate in-person in the first GOP debate hosted by FOX News Channel recently in Milwaukee, his presence was everywhere on the stage and almost every presidential candidate has either mentioned his name or alluded to him in delivering their messages during the debate.

Even with the four indictments and did not participate in the debate, he was a winner in the first debate participated in by eight presidential candidates seeking GOP nomination as standard bearer of the party.

The four indictments didn’t seem to bother his standing in the presidential race and his absence in the debate didn’t even matter at all!

In fact, the candidates struggled to find their grounds in the debate. Republican presidential candidate former Vice President Mike Pence took time to find his bearing but at the end he was a surprise winner, with several forceful interventions.

He also got an unexpected assist in the shape of a question to all the candidates about his actions on Jan. 6, 2021.

Then, Pence focused on the 38-year-old Vivek Ramaswamy, saying, “Now is not the time for on-the-job training. We don’t need to bring in a rookie.”

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also took turn in attacking Ramaswamy, after he boasted that he was the only candidate on the stage “not bought and paid for.” Christie countered by saying, “I’ve had enough already tonight of a guy who sounds like ChatGPT.”

With that line, Christie may have found the weak spot in Ramaswamy’s armor, but the viewers gave him negative points for doing that.

Christie also emphasized his differences with Trump labeling him as the most aggressively anti-Trump candidate in the race. Speaking of Trump’s multiple indictments, Christie said that whether people believed the former president’s actions were criminal or not, “Someone has got to stop normalizing this conduct, OK?”

It seems that the GOP base hated what Christie have been saying, but in terms of debating skills, I think, he was probably the most impressive performer on the stage, along with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. His points were clear and very convincing.

The debate showed the differences among the candidates with their clear display of their varied experiences, but no matter how lively the conversation was, no matter how credible the arguments were, no one on the stage was a threat to Trump’s presidential nomination. In fact, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the most likely runner-up, was a far second to Trump.

Trump showed a clear dominance on stage, and it took former Haley about 15-minutes into the debate to criticize him by pointing out the nearly $8 trillion of federal spending authorized during the Trump presidency that any of the eight candidates did not criticize.

Clearly, the former president emerged from the debate as the clear winner, even though he wasn’t there. He suffered no major blows from the candidates onstage, was frequently defended by one of the loudest voices in the room and after a question from moderators Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier, six of the eight candidates pledged to support him even if he is convicted of a crime.

The audience also showed this kind of reaction of what loyalty is all about. When Christie, Haley or Pence would say something critical of Trump, they were met with boos.

By the end of the night, it did not seem as though any candidate could be a realistic alternative to Trump. None was not even close!

So, while the debate contenders had their moments of brilliance, no one emerged as the clear, non-Trump alternative. Pence’s defense of his actions on January 6 didn’t break any new ground; Christie’s Trump attacks were met with boos; South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott could not break the mold of a career politician; and Ramaswamy started to get booed with more frequency after he declared that climate change was a “hoax.”

Haley stood her ground during the debate, cracked enough jokes, and confronted Ramaswamy just as it was needed. But none of it was likely to be enough to catapult her to the front of the pack or seriously challenge Trump… not even DeSantis.

But going into the debate night, DeSantis was still the most plausible non-Trump candidate to win the nomination. He was still the next-best candidate in most polls and the most serious threat to Trump. He was hardly ever the center of attention on the debate. It was Trump!

Few of the candidates were willing to go after Trump, and of the eight candidates, six raised heir hands when asked if they swill support Trump even if he was convicted of a crime.

Were the four strikes not enough?

ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist here in the US. He just published his book Unlocking the Chain of Poverty: In Pursuit of the American Dream which is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Xlibris Publishing. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com.

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