A moderate’s review of the Republican national debate: Part 1

By Best in Moderation

Yesterday the GOP presidential hopefuls met to debate policies and profiles with one another and present the first official look into the GOP primary contest. I watched the debate in the limited Fox stream (they made it quite inaccessible) and have written my reactions in real time below, as well as my summary. I hope it gives insight for those who didn’t view it, and prompts debate with those who did. Here’s part 1.


This section looked into economy and the environment, and was the only section to feature a question from the public. They selected a young Republican who was concerned about the perception that Republicans don’t care about climate issues. I’m not sure if this kid feels any more reassured; though Haley had the perfect answer, she was quickly snowed under.

Fox comes off as a propaganda arm of the right wing, so you cannot expect quality questions. That said, the question from the kid obviously threw the candidates, and DeSantis in particular, who came off weak and angry and was quickly cut off. So kudos to Fox for that one.

Vivek is there to be the young Trump. He hits the right notes but fails to deliver, IMO. Trump has thin skin but looks like he doesn’t give a damn. Vivek takes the bait each time, even when he comes off weak.

Christie starts strong but can’t seem to hold it out, and is already coming off as a scold.

Scott is sharp on the debate points, but factually incorrect so much that it’s a distraction.

Haley is probably debating the best out of all of them, and has the audience with her.

Pence hasn’t been hanged, so I think he considers that a win. He’s falling away so much I almost forgot he was there in this summary.

Burgum and Hutchinson exist.

Live Reactions:

An earthquake apparently causes the National Anthem singer to vibrate every note. Otherwise a nice theatrical start.
Camera drone comes in and does a swoop shot. Nice use of tech.


Oh no. The first question already showcases why FOX is criticized as a right wing propaganda tank. The question supposedly is about whether “Bidenomics” is working, but the hosts frame it not using statistics, but using people’s “feels” about the economy. That doesn’t bode well.

The first question becomes: “Why is this song (apparently making the round in Republican circles) striking such a nerve in this country?” I’m not sure this claim is really backed up (it strikes a certain population, not the country), but it also leaps FAR away from the actual topic of the economy, which they stated they were going to talk about.

DeSantis jumps on with canned answers. His first line is a lie; this country is not in economic decline, according to any economic statistics. It’s quite the opposite. Then he brings up basements, again showcasing far right wing silliness regarding COVID and holding large rallies during a pandemic. THEN he tries to bring Hunter Biden’s PAINTINGS of all things into the debate. He is deep in MAGA theater; no one else knows what the heck he’s talking about. And it’s incredibly hypocritical for him to talk about the enrichment of non-political family members after 4 years of the Trump family grift. He runs WELL over time, but continues anyway.

“We cannot succeed when the Congress spends trillions and trillions of dollars” The US budget is 5.8 trillion per year. Much of that spending is done by Republican members of Congress. The lack of revenue is primarily due to Republicans slashing taxes for the rich.

“We will be energy dominant again in this country” What does that mean? When were we energy “dominant?”

“I showed it can be done in the state of Florida” Florida’s per capita personal income is $47,684, ranking 26th in the nation. Florida has two cities in the top 25 cities in the U.S. with the highest average credit card debt, Miami and Tampa. Florida has the 17th highest poverty rate in the nation.

Question to Christie: “How would you be better on the economy than him (Ron DeSantis)“. Christie basically agrees with every Ron said, which is weak and also endorses his incorrect statements. He then pivots to saying he’s better at selling the ideas. It takes him a bit but his argument is that he is a conservative who can get elected in a blue state, so that’s his sell.

Then he says something very silly: “we cannot allow Congress to spend money because every dollar spent is one that cannot be spent by these people (the audience) on their families” etc. That makes no sense. Unless you are proposing no taxes at all, that money was never theirs to spend. It’s typical neo-liberal messaging that falls apart if you look at it for 10 seconds.

He gets challenged on debt, but rightly claims that his actions lowered debt, thus downgrades in credit rating are an aftereffect of prior policies. And he remains in his timebox and ends strong.

The other Fox host (sorry, I didn’t pay attention to their names) attacks Biden, and then asks a question to Tim Scott. Seriously, do they not realize how they come off as a propaganda network? This is a national debate. The question is “what have you done as a senator to rein in the increasing size of government.” This making the claim that this increase is unwarranted, something that is not given a factual or rational basis. Tim answers that he’s voted against a lot of spending packages, which again, means nothing. What was the spending about?

Tim Scott claims Bidennomics has led to a loss of 10,000 dollars in spending power for the average American. That is massively dishonest. By the time Biden was in office and Democrats took the Senate, the economy was in free fall, the supply chain was severely damaged, and inflation was starting upwards globally. Since then, the US has the lowest inflation rate of comparable nations, the supply chain issues have been fixed, and unemployment is at record lows. Additionally, the average income of a US family is around 47K. You’d need an inflation rate of 20% to even approach 10K in spending power losses.

He then mentions 16% inflation. In the USA, 2022 saw the highest inflation (as did all nations globally) and that was 8%. Scott is making extraordinarily dishonest claims that have no basis in reality.

He then tries to claim that Trump’s tax cuts for the rich sent money back to the states for spending. It did not. He then claims the average family earned 4K from those tax cuts. Middle income families saw an increase of 1.6% for personal income post tax (as opposed to 2.9% for wealthy families). That again is 752 dollars, a far cry from the 4K he is claiming, because he is rolling the MASSIVE gains for the wealthy into the paltry gains for most people.

Scott didn’t answer the question, really, so the host challenges him on him backing 4 trillion in spending each year under Trump. He tries to blame Covid, but she noted YEARLY spending. Covid was only 2020.

Scott then makes a HUGE whopper. He says that at the end of the majority in the Senate unemployment was extremely low. Nothing could be further from the truth. When his party lost control of the Senate, the nation was reeling from extremely high unemployment rates. He then says inflation was 2%. That’s accurate, but clearly shows he is either extremely uneducated on how inflation works or dishonest.

Pence tries to step in, but is told to hang on a minute. Lol

Vivek is asked why he, with so little experience, is the better choice. He goes right into stump show mode, clearly showing that he’s not there to debate, but to present. Not a bad tactic, but very transparent. He goes full stump speech, and then finally addresses the question by once again saying “we need an outsider.” He ends strongly by basically saying the old guard broke things, so the new guard should get a chance to fix it. I wonder if he’ll ever get specific on what they broke.

Next question to Haley, asking why she would be better economically than Vivek, who is noted as an entrepreneur who is beating her in the polls. Once again Fox leans on feelings over any substantive economic debate.

HOLY MOTHERFORKING SHIRTBALLS: Haley just said Biden didn’t do this the nation, Republicans did. She notes that most of the poeple on that stage voted for more spending. She even noted that Republicans asked for 8 billion more in spending than Democrats did. She also excoriated Trump in adding over 8 trillion to the debt. In other words, she just ended her campaign by telling the truth.

Though the audience did seem to cheer loudly.

Not one person hits back, so they move on to Pence.

Fox tries to get another hit in by noting that people spend more for groceries now, and ask if Pence, being in the administration that oversaw such massive spending increases, half of which were prior to Covid, is part of the problem. Pence tries to present the record of the Trump administration as good. He claims they revived the military (from the Republican-led spending cuts in 2014, which incidentally did not actually lower spending below prior years). He says they revived the US economy (economic analysis shows that the economy in 2016 was already well revived and that the Trump years, even prior to Covid, did not see much increase in economic value). He claims they made advances in energy, though is unspecific. And he claims credit for appointing three SC members, one of which was stolen from Obama and the other appointed against all sense during an election of POTUS.

Pence claims he is the best tested and proved conservative in the race. Interestingly, Pence cites his bond rating while he was governor, which is the exact opposite tactic from Christie. Indiana suffered heavily from Pence’s economic mismanagement and was downgraded shortly after he left office. He once again cites the military cuts that were required by Republican rules.

Pence admits that Covid was the worst pandemic in 100 years. I wonder how that will play to the conspiracy MAGA base. He ends on a hit on Vivek, noting that as President, you DO have to do everything.

Vivek hits back, saying to help the economy you just have to fuck the environment. To get people back to work, just remove social support and allow companies to exploit them. Reform the fed (whatever that means). Go to war on the administrative state (cut off your legs?). Buzzwords that play well to stupid people. He’s not here to debate.

Pence hits back again, saying he’ll be a bit slower so Vivek can keep up. Zing! Pence once again claims things about his record, and then says Joe Biden hurt the country at home and abroad. Without of course citing how or what, because that would require something that can be proven true or false. He hits Vivek saying this isn’t the time for on the job training. Someone has coached him well on how to hit Vivek. Guess they think he’s a threat. The crowd eats it up, so the hosts have to stop it.

They give the word to DeSantis. He blames the state of the economy on lockdowns. Lockdowns he implemented. He lies that he “kept the state free.” Completely untrue. He says he will never let the deep state lock them down… no, only you will? Whatever. It plays well to anti-vax folks. He engages the moronic anti-Fauci hate. Someone wrote lines for him that play to Trump’s cult base.

Vivek takes the mic again and calls out DeSantis for his canned lines. Ironic, but accurate. Pence calls that line a canned line. Nice.

Vivek accuses them of being superPAC puppets who push incremental reform, and sees himself as a revolutionary.

Fox Hosts state they need to take back control. Oh no folks, this is chaotic by design. They want to give the word on the economy to the rest. Burgham or something? Anyway, he talks, saying it’s a big deal to be on the stage with the big folks. Way to undercut your importance.

He ties the economy to national security and energy, which is interesting because Vivek basically said that already. He then critiques 1.2 billion in spending to green energy products, while using a line calling it the “inflation creation act.” Note that inflation rapidly went done post passing the inflation reduction act, but facts don’t seem to matter to Republicans here, and the stats are never cited. He seems to claim all green energy comes from China. American producers would like a word. It’s a good line however, replacing OPEC for SINOTECH. And delivered well. Pity it lacks any factual basis.
He then claims sanctions on Russia (unrelated to energy) means that China gets oil cheaper from Russia, so we are funding China? I’m confused and I think the audience is too.

On to Hutchinson. He rattles off his resume, one person woots. He brags about 14% of public employees losing their jobs. Do those people not matter to him? He then says we need to constrain the growth of federal government. I’m still not seeing anyone make the connection between that and overspending; most spending isn’t for government employees. He has pledged to fire 10% of public employees. What does he think is going to happen to those people?


I think they are going into environmental questions, but since Fox doesn’t believe in climate science, I am curious how they are going to frame this.

WOW! They actually let a young person ask what they will do to combat the idea that Republicans don’t care about climate change. I am genuinely impressed. Fox asks the candidates to put up their hands if they believe in human-caused climate change. DeSantis IMMEDIATELY cuts off that action and says he would like to address the debate. The hosts let him steamroll them. Hutchinson was the only one raising his hand slightly.

DeSantis points aggressively to the camera (to the kid) and plays the victim card. He lied about Biden’s response, because he lives in a delusional land of his own making. He then states that a president should be there, as if being on site helps anyone (it’s actually more of a burden because of security concerns). The hosts try to bring it back to the hand raise.

Vivek jumps in, says everyone else is bought and paid for so they cannot be honest. A lot of people take exception to this. He then claims the climate change “agenda” is a hoax. He says more people die of climate change policies than because of climate change. What a fucking loon.

Christie beats the door down, calling Vivek a ChatGPT bot (probably the best line of the night). He’s JUST able to pull that insult off. He then pivots to an attack comparing inexperienced skinny kid Vivek to Obama. It’s dicey, because it could come off as kind of racist, but he says what most people were thinking when Vivek made basically the same kind of argument Obama made about his inexperience. Vivek takes the bait, looks like a child. Point Christie.

Haley responds, pulling the woman card. She says the men talk, while she gets things done. Nice line, but won’t catch among conservatives, who tend to frown on anti-man pro-women lines. She’s the first to actually address the question, saying Republicans care but think there’s a better way to handle it. THAT is the correct answer. She then says we have to get other nations to lower their emissions. Form some kind of agreement or treaty. Maybe hold a conference in Paris or somewhere and agree to lower them together… oh no, she just unintentionally endorsed The Paris Climate Accords.

Haley finally makes a claim that can be looked into, saying that half the batteries for EVs are made in china. Which is correct, and would matter if Republicans weren’t staunchly against Biden’s every move to reduce dependencies on Chinese batteries.


She says Biden puts money in China’s pockets. No, the people making EVs who only buy from China are doing that. Biden is pushing for diversified battery manufacturing locations and put up regulations requiring US manufacturing etc, as well as passed the CHIPS act to reduce dependencies. Most Republicans voted against that.


Fox hosts try to bring the fight back up, asking Tim Scott if he is bought and paid for. So much for trying to keep control; they LOVE the fights. Scott chastises Pence & Vivek for not engaging in debate and instead sniping. He is correct. He then says that if anyone is to have the chances he had, we need to bring back jobs from China. Never mind that while he was growing up manufacturing was already mostly globalized, he also VOTED AGAINST EVERY ACT THAT DOES THAT.

He then conflates that with environmental damage and emissions, basically saying that everyone else sucks, so we should suck too. Works on some conservatives, but is irrational.