First Republican debate: The biggest loser and the biggest winner

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The person who most enjoyed the first Republican debate was undoubtedly former President Donald Trump. By not participating in the forum, he stayed above the fray, and what a fray it was. The night was full of acrimony and sloppiness; verbal punches were thrown but few landed. Humor and humility took the night off. The eight candidates who gathered in Milwaukee have in common that they are massively trailing the former president; nothing that took place on the debate stage will turn that around.

Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy had substantial momentum coming into the GOP debate in Milwaukee. In just two hours, he blew that advantage, and – most probably – any chance he might have had of securing the nomination. He appeared smart-alecky and disrespectful of his fellow contestants; he interrupted constantly and displayed none of the sobriety and substance so needed by a 38-year-old eager to convince voters he belongs in the Oval Office.

Ramaswamy on several occasions boasted of being the only political novice on the stage, derisively describing his fellow candidates as PAC-puppets; he also insulted the group by describing them as “bought and paid for.” The lack of civility was shocking, at odds with Ramaswamy’s trademark sunniness. During the first break, he must have heard his attacks were not resonating with the audience, since he subsequently toned down the hubris, but the damage was done.

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