Republican candidates vying for the presidential nomination, apart from Donald Trump, will strive to stand out from the crowd during a debate in Wisconsin this week. This event could mark an early turning point in the 2024 campaign, which has been dominated by the former president.
Donald Trump has decided to skip the Wednesday debate, citing his substantial lead in the polls. However, the remaining candidates will face increasing pressure to withdraw from the race unless they gain momentum. Many seasoned campaigners argue that the debate might provide the best opportunity for these candidates to do so. Nonetheless, the presence of Trump, who is facing four criminal indictments, will cast a significant shadow over the proceedings.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who sought the GOP nomination in 2012 and 2016, pointed out the challenge of running against a figure like Trump, who is often seen as a martyr. Santorum pointed out that certain aspects of Trump’s legal problems could be seen as inappropriate to discuss further, given the potential for it to seem like an attack.
As Trump prepares for his own event on Wednesday, he is also facing a deadline to surrender to Georgia authorities by Friday. He is facing charges for allegedly trying to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election. He also faces federal charges related to election interference, mishandling classified information, and making hush-money payments. Despite the allegations, Trump denies any wrongdoing and refers to the investigations as “witch hunts.”
Most candidates have refrained from criticizing Trump for his actions, aligning with his claim that he’s being targeted for political reasons. However, this cautious approach hasn’t helped these candidates make significant gains in the polls, where Trump continues to maintain a substantial lead.
Several candidates and campaign strategists plan to use the debate to introduce themselves to a national audience and present their policy proposals. While some advise targeting other candidates on stage, the consensus is to avoid direct confrontations with Trump. Nevertheless, certain strategists contend that their efforts could be futile if contenders fail to confront Trump’s overall viability for the presidency.
The debate holds potential significance for candidates like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has faced criticism for his performance and campaign spending. DeSantis, who trails behind Trump in most polls, could benefit from a strong debate performance to consolidate his position in the primary race.
There are several other candidates to consider, such as former Vice President Mike Pence, former Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, and the founder of a biotech company, Vivek Ramaswamy, who are looking for opportunities to set themselves apart from the rest of the candidates. However, the challenge lies in addressing Trump’s vulnerabilities with swing voters, especially in the face of his legal challenges.
Despite potential headwinds for Trump, including legal battles and financial strain, many within the GOP acknowledge the difficulty of challenging his strong and loyal base of supporters. The ongoing race will undoubtedly be affected by the interactions between Trump and the other candidates, ultimately influencing the direction of the 2024 Republican primary campaign.