'Here & Now' Highlights: McCoshen & Ross after the first 2024 Republican debate

Here's what guests on the August 25, 2023 episode said about the candidates who participated in a Republican presidential primary debate in Milwaukee and how the indictments of former President Donald Trump are playing a role in the race.

By Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now

August 28, 2023

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Bill McCoshen and Scot Ross sit next to each other and across from Frederica Freyberg at a desk on the Here & Now set.

Frederica Freyberg, Bill McCoshen and Scot Ross (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

Here & Now political panelists Bill McCoshen and Scot Ross offer their analysis of the Aug. 23 presidential primary debate between eight 2024 Republican candidates in downtown Milwaukee. The participating candidates were North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former Vice President Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Former President Donald Trump did not participate, allowing the others to respond to questions about issues ranging from abortion to climate change to the multiple indictments of Trump himself.

Bill McCoshen
Republican political analyst

  • McCoshen said he liked the debate because it forced the candidates to compete for the nomination.
  • McCoshen: “Six of them, I think, brought their A-game. I didn’t think Hutchinson or Tim Scott did, but the other six really competed to try and get this nomination. My ranking of the debate the other night would have been Donald Trump, number one. He didn’t get hit at all the whole night. Ron DeSantis number two. I would have had Vivek Ramaswamy number three and Nikki Haley number four and Mike Pence number five. There’s a couple of problems with a few of them. One was Trump — he wasn’t there. Right. So we’ll see over time whether or not this hurts his big lead nationally in the key states. I think it will. Number two, Ramaswamy. He tried to fill the outsider lane, which Trump has fully filled. Right. And the one thing that the moderators didn’t ask Ramaswamy, was, when he said Donald Trump was the best president in the 21st century, the follow up should have been, he’s in this race, so what are you doing in this race? Exactly. Nobody asked him that. Yeah, right. And the final one is Mike Pence — Scot Ross has more chance of getting the Republican nomination than Mike Pence does. The MAGA voters will never allow him to be the nominee. So I think it’s time for the former VP to exit stage left.”
  • McCoshen said Trump maintains his commanding lead despite criminal charges stacking up against him partly because there’s a crowd of contenders.
  • McCoshen: “There’s too many candidates in this field. The reality is those that did not qualify for the Milwaukee debate should already be out of this race. Those who do not qualify for California when the standards get raised should also drop out. The notion that this will get decided in New Hampshire or South Carolina or on Super Tuesday is nonsense, in this cycle. This cycle is moving faster than any in our lifetime. If those who wanted another alternative other than Donald Trump to be the nominee of the Republican Party, if you are supporting someone other than Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley at this point, you are wasting your time and your money. The others need to get out so that we can consolidate this race.”

Scot Ross
Democratic political analyst

  • Ross responded to the idea that the number and breadth of Republican candidates constitutes an impressively deep bench by turning it back to the incumbent.
  • Ross: “The Democrats have Joe Biden to run this time. He is the incumbent president. He has created 13 million jobs. He has helped build an economy from the ground up and from the middle out that is helping all of Americans to try and thrive in these trying times. The fact is the Democrats don’t need a good bench right now in 2024 because they’ll be running in 2028 with a whole new candidate.”
  • Trump maintains a commanding lead compared to the other primary candidates represented on the debate stage in
  • Milwaukee. Ross said it says something about the political party he opposes.
    Ross: “It shows that the Republican Party has lost its mind because this guy was unfit in 2016, he was unfit in 2020, and he remains unfit — and indicted — in 2024. And the thing about the debate the other night that you noticed is whenever, from my perspective, any of those candidates try to articulate a position that seemed even reasonable, they disqualified themselves from winning the actual primary. The thing that Nikki Haley said about how she was trying to talk about abortion and talk process on it and why it might not be able to be passed, and Chris Christie and the things he said — they can’t win the nomination.”


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