This is the first big meeting in the 2024 US election: Republican presidential candidates kicked off the debate on Wednesday, without favorite Donald Trump, who is determined to play spoiler.
• Also read: Eight Republicans, Not Trump: Participants in the 2024 First Debate
• Also read: Trump to prison in Georgia.. without staying there
Eight contenders for the White House will be debated during the two-hour program hosted by Fox News, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, eager to catch the former president at the polls.
Donald Trump chose to ignore this meeting, which was staged in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, due to his strong lead in the polls among Republicans.
It is a complete irony: criminal charges have been brought four times in less than six months, and the former leader is now crushing all competition in the race for the nomination.
Each twist in his long legal saga brings him millions of dollars in donations, paid by Trump supporters convinced that the septuagenarian is the victim of a “witch hunt”.
How do you generate excitement around the first primary debate in the absence of the preferred candidate?
That is the challenge facing Fox News, whose relationship with Donald Trump has deteriorated sharply in recent months, especially for the former real estate mogul’s rivals.
All struggling to survive in a political and media world centered entirely around the former president’s legal setbacks.
Starting with Ron DeSantis, who is currently number two in the polls, but whose status as a rising star on the far right has been seriously questioned in recent weeks.
Or former Vice President Mike Pence, who changed his tune after years of unwavering loyalty to Donald Trump, after the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Other candidates relatively unknown to the general public and potential vice-presidential contenders — Vivek Ramaswamy, Tim Scott or Nikki Haley — will also be seeking their moment of glory.
But the equation has become more dangerous since Donald Trump himself decided to introduce counterprogramming.
The ex-president, willingly provocative, gave an interview to former star host Tucker Carlson of Fox News, which airs on Channel X (formerly Twitter) at the same time as the debate.
“She’s going to shine. Enjoy it!” he predicted on his social reality network.
Illustration of the former reality TV star’s hilarious campaign: Donald Trump travels to Atlanta the next day to present himself to the US state of Georgia, where he is accused of trying to reverse the election. Presidential elections 2020.
In practice, Mr. Trump will be formally placed under arrest. And the authorities of this southeastern state should then take his criminal photo, known as the famous “mugshot”, which could have a notorious effect on the Republican candidate.
Then he will come out free.
Several photos of his co-defendants, including one of his former lawyer Rudy Giuliani, were already released on Wednesday night and made headlines on social networks.
But among the viewers of the Fox News debate – the first big meeting of the campaign – is Democratic President Joe Biden.
The octogenarian leader, up for re-election, will face, barring a big surprise, the winner of this Republican primary during the US presidential election on November 5, 2024.
And he accelerated the pace of his campaign himself: an ad for his candidacy aired just before Fox News, a favorite of the Conservatives, aired.
Will America witness a new version of the 2020 elections? Donald Trump has already begun to get himself into the game. He accused, without evidence, the current president of dictating his legal troubles, and adorned him with one of his famous nicknames: “Joe La Crabol”.
The Democratic president is careful not to comment on the serial accusations of his opponent, keen not to fuel accusations of abuse of justice.
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