Fourth GOP Debate Reveals Two Things: Trump isn’t Threatened – and rest of pack are weak - Last night, the Republican Party held its final presidential debate of 2023, and just before the first ballots are cast next month in Iowa. The debates revealed more than some may realize, but two key things stood out: Trump faces no serious threats to winning the GOP nomination – and the other candidates are surprisingly weak, especially on foreign policy.
Vivek Ramaswamy is ironically the most Trump-like in outlook (though quite different in temperament), as he echoed the former president in his view that the Russia-Ukraine war should be resolved quickly, and in fact could have been avoided in February 2022 if key actors took different actions. But Vivek exposed that his overall understanding of foreign policy is limited (though, as he repeatedly pointed out, he and his three-year-old do know Ukrainian geography).
Ron DeSantis continues to insist he’d use special forces to go into Mexico to prevent the drug cartels from sending fentanyl to the United States, and he remains quite hawkish on China. At one point he said if China were to take Taiwan and “break out of this first island chain, they’re going to be able to dominate commerce in the entire Indo-Pacific. They will use that to export authoritarianism all around the world.” Sounded reminiscent of the fear during the Cold War that the USSR was a threat to export communism around the world. DeSantis didn’t explain how China might actually “export” authoritarianism.”
Nikki Haley remains undeterred by the lack of success of the Ukraine Armed Forces after 22 months of war and still staunchly argues for continuation of funding and maximum support to Ukraine. In attacking Ramaswamy, Haley said her opponent wanted “to hand Ukraine to Russia, he wants to let China eat Taiwan, he wants to go and stop funding Israel. You don't do that to friends.”
But the GOP elephant that wasn’t in the room, again, was Donald Trump. The former president is riding high in the latest polling, well over 50% of likely Republican voters and hasn’t lost ground despite not participating in the previous three debates. His views on Ukraine (ending the war through negotiations, not more fighting) and on Taiwan (implying he would not fight China over Taiwan) are unique among all remaining GOP candidates, as well as the Democrats.
The question still unanswered, however: will Trump be allowed to stand for election next November?
He still has four major court cases and 91 counts on his indictments, any one of which could land him in jail. Harry Kazianis, Director of National Security Affairs at the Center for The National Interest, and I will be hosting a live analysis of the debate as well as looking ahead to 2024 on my show Daniel Davis Deep Dive, at 3 pm Eastern today.