Because I’ll try anything once, today we present my rundown of Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate.
I can’t emphasize how unusual this is. I’m not a presidential debate guy. As someone who enjoys all aspects of local politics, I have the opposite approach to the national stage.
It doesn’t matter whether Republican or Democrat. I generally find presidential debates useless and only remotely entertaining.
And as regular readers know, I rarely venture outside my Citrus County sandbox because I want to keep the conversation to something that touches our lives. National politics seems only to provoke anger.
But our governor is running for president. And he recently visited Citrus County, so that makes the Republican debate fair game for a Just Wright Citrus blog.
Here we go:
— The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is a very cool site for this debate. That Air Force One replica is impressive.
— Our governor, Ron DeSantis, smiles broadly when introduced. I think it’s the only time he smiled all night.
He also gets the center slot again as the top polling candidate not named Donald Trump, who isn’t here. With Trump running away with the nomination even before the first primary, what exactly are we doing?
— The seven candidates include Doug Burgum, governor of North Dakota. The governor of North Dakota thinks he’s the Republican who’s going to topple Trump and then defeat a sitting president. North Dakota must be the new Disney.
— Five minutes in and I’m already regretting this plan. Where are my Library Guy notes?
— DeSantis and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie lightly jab Trump for not being there. No one here has the spine to really go after Trump. That’s the GOP these days.
— Speaking of Christie, he’s one of those fun, bombastic candidates who’s quick with the quotes but likely won’t go anywhere.
— Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is impressive. Sharp, smart, witty. She went toe-to-toe with our governor, and I hope she goes far in the primaries.
— Vivek Ramaswamy is smooth. I’d really enjoy having a Cattle Dog chat with him.
— Our governor scores audience points with lines like this one: “We need to choose law and order over rioting and disorder.”
— Actually, he’s doing well with this audience. Remember that our governor is somewhat of a hero with California Republicans, so it’s a friendly crowd.
— Mike Pence. Don’t know how I feel about him. I mean, he’s a former vice president, which places him just a smidge above the other conservative voices in this group. But, of course, Pence is…different.
— Burgum starts every other sentence, “In North Dakota…” I’m sure he’s a fine man and a wonderful governor, perhaps the best governor North Dakota has ever had, but c’mon. This is a state with a population a little more than Tampa-St. Pete.
— Pence: “This is no time for on-the-job training.” Other than a president running for re-election, only a vice president can get away with saying that. It’s one of the few campaign trail perks.
— DeSantis gets big applause: “We’re standing with parents and our kids are benefitting.”
— Haley, referring to Ramaswamy: “Every time you talk, I feel a little dumber for what you say.”
That is…wow…a brilliant insult. Totally off the cuff.
— I stop taking notes an hour in. The last thing I wrote was another DeSantis one-liner: “Polls don’t elect presidents. People elect presidents,” says the man 30 points down in the polls.
— Overall, our governor did OK. Many of his quips were crowd favorites. He had a wide range of questions to cover, he matched up well with the competitors, and — incredible considering he’s not Mr. Personality — DeSantis was actually one of the more polite people on stage.
— I’m not going to break down issues like the national media. That I stayed with the debate until the end without screaming out the front door is a testament to the mute button.
— Not a single question about the Citrus County Library Board. This is why I don’t watch these things. They’re not relevant.
— Who I liked: Nikki Haley. Who I didn’t: Tim Scott. Favorite state: North Dakota.
— And that’s enough politics for a week. Have a wonderful Thursday, friends.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.