Eight candidates took to the stage for the first Fox News GOP debate, and clear winners and losers emerged from the Trump-less event.

Republican debate winners:

1). Mike Pence – Let’s start with some reality. Mike Pence is not going to win the Republican presidential nomination. Pence is seen as a traitor Trump And MAGA, but Fox News gave Pence and his actions 1/6 of the entire segment of the debate to defend their actions and they took full advantage of it. Pence also took a dig at Vivek Ramaswamy regarding Putin and Ukraine. It would be possibly the finest moment of Pence’s campaign, and he was one of the candidates who made the most of Trump’s absence.

Pence clip:

2). nikki haley The debates are largely about creating moments and Haley has taken a soundbite of her own that will be played on cable news in the coming days as she got into a heated argument with Ramaswamy on the foreign issue. Nikki Haley also won’t be the Republican nominee, but like Pence, she was able to differentiate herself as one of the few Republicans with experience who takes foreign policy seriously. Unfortunately for him, voters don’t care about foreign policy.

Haley’s clip:

3). Chris Christie – The Winners section has a theme. Chris Christie will not be the Republican presidential candidate. If getting scolded by Republican debate spectators was a sign of success, Chris Christie’s had a great night. Chris Christie talks passionately about visiting Ukraine and denounces Trump and his love of Putin. Christie has been criticized for daring to criticize the conduct Trump has been blamed for. For Christie, the debate was about New Hampshire, where he finished second in the polls. Chris Christie has no chance in the big GOP primary, but he was another seasoned debater who knew how to take advantage of the stage to create moments.

Chris Christie’s clip:

4). Donald Trump – Certainly Trump is a coward for avoiding the debate while facing four serious indictments, but judging by the rest of the field, it seems he was right not to attend. No candidate is a serious threat to him on the debate stage. In fact, none of these candidates is likely to be his running mate in 2024. The debate’s counter-programming probably flopped with Tucker Carlson hanging out online, but what showed up on the Fox debate stage shouldn’t worry Trump.

(No clip of Trump because he didn’t appear.)

The losers in the Republican debate:

1). Vivek Ramaswamy-Ramaswamy’s secret got exposed in the debate. Judging by who the other candidates attacked, Vivek was clearly the candidate who was seen as having momentum in other campaigns. The problem is that Ramaswamy was overpowered by more experienced candidates who were able to exploit his lack of knowledge and inexperience.

Ramaswamy decided to play Trump’s stand-in in the debate, and he received strong reactions from other candidates. Ramaswamy is doing superficial marketing without any facts. He’s following the Trump 2016 campaign playbook to the letter. Problem is, Donald Trump is also in the running, which means there’s no room for a Trump mini-me.

Clip of Ramaswamy:

2). Ron DeSantis, DeSantis was forced and awkward which was not surprising. DeSantis is also a terrible debater. What stood out was that the other candidates on stage did not follow DeSantis. Ron DeSantis hasn’t been treated like a strong contender, he hasn’t been treated like someone who has a chance to win. DeSantis was the center of the stage, but did not command the stage. Ron DeSantis looked and sounded like a confused candidate with no identity, a zombie candidate leading a zombie campaign.

3). Tim Scott- Scott came in as a candidate to watch, but he was completely forgettable in the debate. Actually, I forgot to include him in my initial list.

4). Asa Hutchinson- He seemed like an old Republican from the era before the Trump GOP takeover, which meant he had no place on this stage in this race. Hutchinson will leave the campaign after Iowa, if not sooner.

5). Doug Burgum – Bergum to debate what he described as a ruptured Achilles tendon, but this was to be the highlight of their debate.

6). Fox News – The debate is still likely to get good ratings, but it was reminiscent of the kiddie table debates that Fox held during the 2016 campaign for candidates who didn’t make the main stage. This debate was completely forgettable.

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