DENVER — Eight candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential race gathered on the debate stage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Wednesday.
The frontrunner, former President Donald Trump, was not present. Instead, he released a sit-down interview with Tucker Carlson on X, formerly known as Twitter.
From the start of the debate, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy was the target of several jabs.
"The last person... who stood in the middle of the stage and said, 'What's a skinny guy with an odd last name doing up here?' was Barack Obama. And I’m afraid we’re dealing with the same type of amateur," said Chris Christie, former Governor of New Jersey.
Ramaswamy tried to separate himself from the rest of the field.
"Do you want a super PAC puppet? Or do you want a patriot who speaks the truth?" said Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur from Ohio.
First GOP debate: Ramaswamy stands out, DeSantis quiet, Trump absent
Democratic political consultant Jason Bane, who also runs coloradopols.com, said some Colorado viewers were watching the debate to see if there was a viable Trump alternative.
"I think the main thing is — are any of these eight candidates plausible Republican nominees in case Donald Trump gets hit by a bus or something?" said Bane.
About halfway through the debate, moderator Brett Baier of Fox News asked the candidates if they would support Trump as the Republican nominee if he was convicted in a court of law. All candidates said they would except Asa Hutchinson, former governor of Arkansas .
Colorado GOP Chairman Dave Williams was in Milwaukee for the debate. He released a statement to Denver7, saying "The Republican Party’s candidates for President represent an embarrassment of riches while Joe Biden is just an embarrassment. We will take back the White House in 2024 and get America back on track."
The Biden-Harris campaign also released several statements throughout the debate, blaming Republicans for some of the country's worst economic decisions.
“Nikki Haley is right: Republicans are responsible for some of our country’s worst economic decisions. This debate is a stark reminder that MAGA Republicans’ version of an economic agenda is rigging the economy for the ultra-wealthy and big corporations at the expense of the American middle class. They want to make Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s tax giveaways for the wealthy permanent, ship hardworking Americans’ jobs overseas, and cut Social Security and Medicare. Meanwhile, President Biden and Vice President Harris are working to lower costs, create jobs, and grow the economy by growing the middle class – the polar opposite of what we’ve heard tonight.”
Trump's absence from Wednesday's debate was notable. During his interview, when asked about his decision to not participate, he said, "I’m going to have all of these people screaming at me, shouting questions at me — all of which I love answering, I love doing. But it doesn’t make sense to do them… I’ve taken a pass."
Robert Preuhs, professor of political science at Metropolitan State University Denver, believes that decision only benefits the former president.
"You know, the actual old adage for campaigns and debates if you're the front runner, it's actually not a real advantage to be in that debate. You can only go down," said Preuhs.
GOP candidates will face off again next month on September 27 in California.
"One of the things that all these candidates are really going to want to do is try to establish some momentum," said Preuhs.