Making Sense by Michael Reagan
As usual, there was too much cross-talk and chaos on stage.
And there was way too much partisan cheering and hooting by the audience.
But the first Republican presidential primary debate on Fox News was an entertaining spectacle.
Instead of watching Tucker Carlson interview Donald Trump on Twitter/X, it was a good way to check out the personalities and political positions of the GOP’s lineup of second and third stringers who have the impossible dream of beating out Trump for the party’s 2024 nomination.
No one jumped off the screen and looked presidential, or even vice presidential, but as I tweeted during the debate, the biggest winner was Nikki Haley.
The only woman in a rough-and-tumble verbal rumble with seven cocky men, she not only held her own, she kicked butt.
As tough and sharp as any man up there, she gave solid answers to questions about why it’s so important for us to support Ukraine and the reality of what Republicans can accomplish on abortion.
Haley said the Republican goal of a federal law on abortion was a pipe dream because it’ll take 60 votes in the U.S. Senate – and that will never happen.
And she was also not afraid to point out the obvious – that Republicans are also to blame for racking up our $32 trillion national debt.
Haley not only seemed to be a happy warrior, she didn’t spit out pre-programmed answers or canned pitches boasting about her experience as governor of South Carolina or UN ambassador.
Speaking of pre-programmed answers, Ron DeSantis – who I like a lot as governor of Florida – was OK. But he was stiff as a surfboard, unlikable and smiled just once.
At one point I think I tweeted, “Please stop yelling at me. Have a conversation with me.”
The 38-year-old frat boy on stage – entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy – tried way too hard to be cute and provocative and he suffered from it, especially in his exchanges with Haley and Mike Pence.
The former VP did a perfectly fine, adult-like job, but No MAGA Republican will ever support Pence for president, vice president or South Bend dog catcher.
Ditto for Chris Christie. The ex-New Jersey governor was the most relaxed of anyone up there, but his whole campaign is basically one slogan – “I hate Trump.” You need more than that to become president.
The good and likable senator, Tim Scott of South Carolina, did a perfectly fine job.
But the other two nice Republican scrubs – the North Dakota governor and Arkansas’ ex-governor Asa Hutchinson – were essentially invisible and should have skipped the first try out.
I hope they don’t make the cut for the next Republican debate Sept. 27 at the Reagan Library.
It should be more substantive and less crazy, now that the candidates have introduced themselves to the country and thrown spitballs at each other.
No one had a breakout moment Wednesday night, unless it was Haley.
And I don’t think anyone really did serious damage to themselves – not even Ramaswamy with his crack about everyone else on stage being bought and paid for by donors.
But now it’s time for the candidates to do what might be the most important thing of all – simply prove to American voters that they are likable human beings.
No matter what their policies are, whoever becomes the standard bearer for the Republican Party needs to be likable to win.
Likable candidates are able to attract votes from independents and even Democrats who don’t agree with them politically.
That’s a big reason my dad won in 1980. It’s why Trump won in 2016.
And if a Republican hopes to become president in 2024 and save the country from the Democrats, he – or she – will have to be the most likable.
Copyright 2023 Michael Reagan, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Michael Reagan, the son of President Ronald Reagan, is an author, speaker and president of the Reagan Legacy Foundation. Send comments to [email protected] and follow @reaganworld on Twitter.