By Isabel Pulgarin
The last two messy Republican debates by Fox News had the front-runner missing-in-action and the talking points twirling circles in sequence among the candidates at the Ronald Reagan Library Sept. 27 in Simi Valley, California. All the small-government, conservative values are a blur.
It’s an uphill battle for six Republican candidates as they campaign for the 2024 Republican nomination for president. Here is your guide to navigate through the candidates’ appeal as they vie for your support over President Joe Biden.
Former President Donald J. Trump
The G.O.P. leader with the most scandals and criminal indictments.
According to FiveThirtyEight, he has been polling steady in first place since the beginning of this year despite the stacked legal troubles. In New York, Trump is facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records for not disclosing hush-money payments made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels who alleges they had an affair in 2006. In this case, a former president made his first historic court appearance in April that lasted 77 seconds.
Trump was found liable in May for sexually assaulting and defaming advice columnist E. Jean Carroll who accused him of raping her in the ‘90s. But he is being brought to court next January in New York for defaming her again by denying the rape, claiming she was “not my type,” and claiming she had political and financial motives.
He was criminally indicted for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection of 2021 in August. Trump was also indicted on 40 felony counts of retaining classified national security documents when he left office in January 2021 and obstructing federal attempts to retrieve them from Mar-a-Lago. He and the other two aides were indicted in July for trying to destroy security camera footage.
In Georgia, it was the 13 election interference criminal charges from 2020 that brought him in for the historic mugshot Aug. 24. On Oct. 2, Trump was brought to the courtroom for the civil fraud trial in New York, alleging Trump inflated the value of his real estate assets.
Campaigning to make the country great again, again, Trump will have all these upcoming court dates acting inconsequentially as a second campaign. They are slated to happen among the Republican campaign events through the next year until Election Day next November.
Former Vice President Mike Pence
A veteran politician for the Republican party.
Pence served as a U.S. Representative of Indiana from 2001 to 2013, as the governor until 2017, and then became vice president for Trump. He attributes his politics to the “common-sense conservativism of Ronald Reagan.”
Before he won, he ran for a seat in Congress in 1988 and spent campaign donations for personal errands that at the time didn’t legally trouble him but tainted his efforts. From then until 2000, Pence hosted his own conservative radio and talk shows.
Rejected by Trump and his followers for honoring the results of the 2020 election despite their efforts, he has still on occasion argued there were “significant voting irregularities.”
Before the presidential tag team with Trump, Pence made education reform a priority securing Indiana’s state funds for prekindergarten education. But he shot into the national scene in 2015 when his state’s legislature passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, protecting the practice of religion.
Notably, Pence failed to elaborate on his answer to address rising violence against LGBTQ+ people by saying, “I’ll stand up for the safety and the civil liberties of every American from every background,” then pivoting to his plan for parents’ rights.
Pence calls for a nationwide 15-week abortion ban and a federal ban on gender-affirming health care; a reduction in federal spending and the national debt; American support for Ukraine; and the immigration enforcement of Trump-Pence’s reign.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Sunshine State’s Anti-Woke Warrior
Our governor is running on his record in the culture wars here at home, his education policies, and keeping Florida businesses and schools open in the summer of 2020 when cases were rising.
In the summer of 2021, he banned the teaching of critical race theory (C.R.T.) and approved a 15-week abortion ban with exceptions for rape and incest, provided with documented proof. The ban is currently being challenged in Florida’s Supreme Court, but if upheld, a six-week ban will take effect 30 days later.
DeSantis won his governor race with the full backing of Trump in 2018 but now must walk the line of denouncing Trump, though not too much to keep the same base. Since the passing of the “Don’t Say Gay” law banning the education of sexual orientation and gender identity and Disney World’s vocal disdain, DeSantis took criticism for taking away the self-governing power of Disney’s district, casting Florida as a poor business partner.
He recently came under fire when Florida’s new Black history education guidelines included a provision to teach enslaved people learned skills for their “personal benefit.” He defended the guidelines, noting the curriculum was written by “great Black history scholars.” This comes more than a year after state officials banned any inkling of C.R.T. they can define with the “Stop WOKE Act,” or the Individual Freedom Act. Broadly the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employee Act bans teaching one race or gender is superior to the other, prohibiting instructors from making one feel guilty for the discrimination by members of their race, and barring the portrayal of racial colorblindness—defined by the law as a virtue—as racist.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley
The Voice of Vague Reason
She was a South Carolina U.S. Representative for six years, then served as governor from 2011 to 2017. She gained national attention when she signed a bill to remove the Confederate battle flag. As a daughter to Indian immigrants, Haley grew up Sikh but later converted to Christianity.
After criticizing Trump when she ran in the 2016 election over rhetoric and immigration, she was appointed his American ambassador to the U.N. as a strong voice against North Korea and Iran. She backed Trump when he withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement a few months into his presidency.
Haley often is criticized for being unclear on her political stances. She believes abortion should be left up to the states and supports aide to Ukraine. She runs on being an expert on foreign policy and her ability to address issues of gender and race in a credible way. She has repeatedly said America is not a racist country and linked transgender girl athletes joining teams to a rise in teen-girl suicide ideation in June.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
The Trump Slayer.
Once a Trump ally, he hopes to be the conservative of conservatives’ past before the former president stepped into the Republican limelight. During the second debate, Christie called out Trump for missing the debates and not wanting to defend his record. He called him, “Donald Duck,” for ducking out.
Former President George W. Bush appointed Christie as U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey in 2001. For the next eight years, he prosecuted more than 130 public officials, never losing a case. From 2010 to 2018, Christie served as New Jersey governor and was praised for his leadership after Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. He drew gubernatorial scrutiny when in 2013 he was attributed with lane closures on the George Washington Bridge as retaliation against Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich who didn’t support his re-election.
He ran for the presidency previously but never gained enough traction. He pulled out to support Trump.
Christie believes abortion bans should be left to the states, supporting exceptions; securing the border as an effort to reverse the opioid epidemic is more important than a pathway to citizenship; addressing gun violence through mental health rather than gun bans; and supporting U.S. aid to Ukraine during their war against Russia.
In the second debate, he caused offence by slamming President Biden for “sleeping with a member of the teachers union,” a dig at First Lady Jill Biden who has a doctorate on education. He defended his comment to CNN the next day, calling her “a radical advocate for the worst in the teachers union.”
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy
The Other Anti-Woke Crusader.
Campaigning largely on critiquing “wokeness,” the attention—good and bad— that he’s earned brought him far for a 38-year-old first-time candidate. Being so new, he was criticized by Pence as someone who would be a president undergoing “on-the-job training.”
Ramaswamy is a former biotech executive of the biopharmaceutical, Roivant Sciences, turned multimillion “Anti-Woke Crusader,” as he was dubbed by Reuters. Ramaswamy has said “abortion is a form of murder,” supporting state-level six-week abortion bans with some exceptions. He wants to abolish the Department of Education, the FBI, and the IRS. He is against U.S. military aid to Ukraine and affirmative action as, to him, it’s the “single biggest form of institutionalized racism in America today.” Ramaswamy is doing it all while defending Trump.
During the first debate, Ramaswamy said he was lucky to have two parents who celebrated education.
“Part of the problem is we also have a federal government that pays single women more not to have a man in the house than to have a man in the house, contributing to an epidemic of fatherlessness," he said. “The nuclear family is the greatest form of governance.”
U.S. Senator Tim Scott - South Carolina
The Fundraising Favorite.
On the sidelines, Scott is a popular Senate investment serving since 2013, though not as popular outside the caucuses, according to national polling.
During the second debate, Scott and DeSantis fought about the slavery curriculum in Florida. “There is not a redeeming quality in slavery,” said Scott, calling for its removal.
As another candidate criticized for being vague, he runs on protecting religious freedom, being federally anti-abortion, and intending to funnel money to build the Mexican-American border wall with new technologies “to stop fentanyl from crossing our border.”
The Buccaneer conducted a survey of 103 students where 27 percent of respondents pit Haley as the best candidate against President Biden with Trump polling in second with about 24 percent. Christie is in third place with about 17 percent with DeSantis in fourth with about 12 percent, leaving Pence, Ramaswamy, and Scott behind in our bottom three.