The first Republican presidential debate gave eight candidates not named Donald Trump a chance to introduce themselves to the country, and give conservatives an alternative to challenging Democrat Joe Biden in 2024.
But that’s easier to say given how Trump is running away with the nomination, according to the polls, despite being indicted four times during the early stages of the primary.
Even though Trump’s absence overshadowed much of the discussion, the other contenders were able to touch on abortion, Ukraine and climate change among other policy views.
It also gave voters a closer look at 38-year-old Vivek Ramaswamy, a political newcomer who is rising in the polls and tussled with multiple rivals as he sought to use the debate as a coming-out-party.
Trump stole the show again this week, however, when he became the first former president to have his booking photo taken , which is creating another earthquake in the primary and beyond. The Georgia case represents the fourth court case against Trump, who is being accused of trying to steal the state’s 16 Electoral College votes.
Americans who love and loathe the former president waited for hours outside the Fulton County jail before his surrender carrying signs and wearing costumes either applauding or mocking his arrest.
In the coming weeks, Trump and his 18 co-defendants will return for arraignments and other proceedings as the the threat of jail time becomes a reality for those charged, arrested and booked in the Georgia election fraud case.
Amid all of this the Biden campaign is out with a new TV ad slamming Republicans on abortion, which remains a sticky subject for the GOP in the wake of Roe v. Wade being knocked down by the Supreme Court. The president also reminded supporters to chip in during the hours Trump was being processed at the Georgia jail.
Biden also made a bit of political news when his campaign refused say whether the president would debate Trump should he win the Republican nomination.
But it wasn’t a week where the president was let off the hook either, as Hawaii residents recovering from the deadly wildfires gave Biden an earful “to do more to help.”
First GOP debate gives Ramaswamy a close up
No Trump, no problem.
None who attended the debate received more attention than biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, an Ohio Republican whose brash conservatism and eyebrow raising positions have become the one non-Trump story shaking up the primary.
Ramaswamy drew fire from multiple rivals on a number of fronts during the two-hour debate, from foreign policy to defending Trump and even comparisons to Barack Obama, who he appeared to borrow a line from during his opening statement.
“First, let me just address a question that is on everybody’s mind at home tonight,” Ramaswamy said. “Who the heck is this skinny guy with a funny last name?”
Trump booking photo makes history, now what?
Wearing a blue suit and red tie, Trump’s booking photo is a piece of American history that will have implications beyond the 2024 GOP primary.
Trump and his co-defendants, who include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, are being charged under the state’s RICO Act, a law that is historically used to take down illegal drug organizations and street gangs.
In coming weeks the focus may shift to how those other individuals are mulling their options in terms of how to fight the case as it moves through the courts, including if any of them will flip on the real estate mogul.
One of the Georgia state false electors has blamed Trump, saying his group was only following the orders of the commander-in-chief.
Biden leans into abortion rights post-GOP debate
President Joe Biden and the Democrats have made clear they plan to make reproductive rights a centerpiece of the 2024 election cycle.
During the Republican debate the president’s reelection team had a digital ad on Fox News’s website pledging to restore Roe, and a few days later they released a 60-second spot highlighting many of the GOP contenders views on abortion.
“These guys showed us this week they don’t have a clue about the power of women,” Biden said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “They are about to find out.”
In the year since the high court ended Roe v. Wade, six states have addressed reproductive rights questions and the liberal side has won each of those ballot questions.
A Biden v. Trump rematch could see no debates
Trump stood up his primary election rivals at the Republican debate, but Biden might do the same should he and Trump meet again in 2024.
The Republican National Committee last year voted to no longer take part in debates hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates, alleging left-wing bias from the historic organizer
Hawaii wildfires test Biden’s leadership, empathy
Facing a monumental rebuild, Hawaiians are starting to ask tough questions about the government’s response to the wildfires that devastated the island of Maui.
Many are also looking closer at Biden’s response after he refused to comment on wildfire relief while relaxing at his Rehoboth Beach home earlier this month. The president also faced criticism for waiting to visit Maui for nearly two weeks after the fires, a delay the White House said was necessary to avoid interfering with search and rescue efforts.
In the past, disasters have become crucial tests of presidential leadership and Biden is no different.
“Where’s the president?” Maui resident Ella Sable Tacderan said in an interview. “Why are we getting put in the back pocket? Why are we being ignored?”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Week in politics: Trump surrenders in Georgia, Ramaswamy’s close up