Inflation, insecurity, abortion… but above all Trump: the Republican candidates for the American presidential election of 2024 were torn apart on Wednesday during the first debate of the campaign, without the former president, surrounded by investigations and determined to play spoilsport .
The four indictments of the tempestuous billionaire, which are the subject of dizzying media attention, have given rise to the most acrimonious exchanges between the eight people on the podium.
But also to a sequence of the strangest: to the question of whether Donald Trump should be entrusted with the keys of the White House, even if he were convicted in court, all the candidates – except two – raised their hands, rather hesitantly.
Including Ron DeSantis, the former president’s main rival, but whose status as a rising star on the hard-right has been heavily questioned in recent weeks.
“It’s high time to stop normalizing his behavior,” said Chris Christie, one of Donald Trump’s most critical candidates, but who was strongly booed by the public.
” Witch hunt “
Donald Trump had chosen to snub this meeting, organized in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, because according to him of his very large lead in the Republican opinion polls.
This is the paradox: charged four times in less than six months, the former leader is currently crushing all the competition in the race for the Republican nomination.
For the rivals of the former president, who are struggling to exist in a political and media universe completely centered around his legal setbacks, this evening was the chance to distinguish themselves not to be missed.
Some of the sharpest stings were fired when the issue of abortion came up — a politically mined topic for Republicans.
Especially between Nikki Haley, the only woman to claim the Republican nomination, and former Vice President Mike Pence, who “devoted his life to Jesus Christ”.
Faithful among the faithful of Donald Trump, this sixty-year-old changed his tone following the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 – another subject hotly commented on in Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Global warming, immigration and the war in Ukraine were briefly mentioned, in a sometimes confused atmosphere.
Other candidates relatively unknown to the general public and possible contenders for a vice-presidential position have also sought to have their moment of glory. “Let me answer the question everyone is asking at home tonight: who is this skinny guy with a funny last name? “, launched Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur who made his fortune in biotechnology, causing laughter in the assembly.
But the equation was all the more perilous since Donald Trump himself had decided to provide counter-programming.
The former president, willingly provocative, gave an interview to Tucker Carlson, former star host of Fox News, broadcast on X (ex-Twitter), voluntarily at the same time as the debate.
During an exchange of about 45 minutes, Donald Trump covered pell-mell the death in prison of fallen financier Jeffrey Epstein, or his relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
He also multiplied the attacks against Joe Biden, called “the worst president in the history of our country”.
Trump in Georgia on Thursday
Illustration of the funny campaign in which the former reality TV star is launched, Donald Trump will go to Atlanta this Thursday to present himself to the authorities of the American state of Georgia, where he is accused of having tried to reverse the result of the 2020 presidential election.
In practice, Mr. Trump will be formally placed under arrest. The authorities of this state in the south-east of the country should then take his forensic photo, the famous “mugshot”, with a potentially infamous effect for the Republican candidate.
He will then come out free, having paid a bond of 200,000 dollars.
Among the viewers of the Fox News debate was Joe Biden, who will face, unless there is a big surprise, the winner of these Republican primaries on November 5, 2024.
The question of the age of the Democratic leader, the first octogenarian president in the history of the United States, was also briefly addressed and the president was booed by the public at the start of the program.
With Camille Camsupers in Washington