Trump was ‘the elephant not in the room’ at the first Republican presidential primary debate of the 2024 cycle

News & Politics

Eight Republican presidential hopefuls gathered Wednesday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for the first GOP primary debate of the 2024 presidential election cycle, but former President Donald Trump, the clear frontrunner who has been trouncing the rest of the field according to polling, was conspicuously absent because he opted to skip the event.

Tucker Carlson released an interview with Trump on Wednesday night just before the start of the debate, though reports indicate the interview had been previously recorded.

The candidates who participated in the debate were Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum of the Fox News Channel moderated the debate. About halfway through the event, Baier raised the topic of “the elephant not in the room” in reference to Trump.

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When Baier asked whether the candidates would support Trump if he is convicted in court but is the GOP presidential nominee, six of the candidates appeared to raise their hands to indicate that they would still support Trump, while Hutchinson did not raise his hand. Christie, who has been an outspoken Trump opponent, made motions with his hand, but then indicated that he was not raising his hand.

When Baier asked whether any of the candidates would not support additional funding for Ukraine, Ramaswamy raised his hand. DeSantis said that U.S. support should be contingent on Europe doing its part.

Haley said that climate change is “real,” suggesting that pressure should be placed on China and India to decrease their emissions.

Burgum claimed that there should not be a federal abortion ban in the U.S. because such a ban would be precluded by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution.

When MacCallum asked DeSantis whether he would support dispatching U.S. special forces into Mexico to target fentanyl labs and drug cartel operations, DeSantis answered, “Yes, and I will do it on day one.”

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