Photos (L-R) Win McNamee, Getty Images | Morry Gash, AP Photo
The Republican debate last Wednesday drew 13 million viewers, more than expected given the absence of the frontrunner. The Democrats regularly get about 10 million viewers and Republicans more. The 2015 August 6 debate with Trump got 24 million hosting Trump’s debut performance.
This debate’s intense exchanges and sharp divisions were enhanced by Trump’s absence. It was a first view of what the national party, at least the presidential wing, looks like when not dominated by Trump. Vivek Ramaswamy, Trump’s stand-in, was attacked repeatedly by Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, and Christ Christie. Trump, himself, took considerable incoming criticism from Ron DeSantis on COVID-19, Haley on spending, and Pence on the Constitution. Haley may have summed up Trump’s greatest vulnerability when she declared, “… we have to face the fact that Trump is the most disliked politician in America. We can’t win a general election that way.”
In my recent discussions in Colorado, Republicans who had voted for Trump claimed they were looking for an alternative. They mentioned Ramaswamy, Robert Kennedy Jr., No Labels. It is a sign that beneath the 50 percent plus of Republicans who claim to support Trump, many are concerned about his political toxicity and are receptive to an alternative.