Saxman: GOP Debate – Two Tiers Emerge. Trump, Haley, DeSantis and the Others.

After two rounds, three are standing – Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, and Ron DeSantis


In watching, reviewing, and listening to many others discuss the debates, I cannot see – for now – a scenario in which the eventual Republican nominee is not either Trump, Haley, or DeSantis.

My caveat “for now” is not that I think that a second tier candidate will break into the top tier. Can’t see that.

The caveat is whether or not Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin enters the race after the Commonwealth’s November mid terms.

Today’s Zoom features WPAi Amanda Iovino (2021 Pollster of the Year for her work on the Youngkin campaign) click here to join at 3pm:

Before we dive into Wednesday’ s debate, let’s take a look at online polls over at Drudge:

First Republican Debate poll – 174k votes

Second Republican Debate poll – 114k votes so far

Note vote totals – 60k less – that’s no small drop off.

Obviously NOT a scientific poll, but is GOP enthusiasm for these candidates already sliding?

Politico story on viewership dropping from 13MM in first debate to 9.5MM in second.

The Drudge polling lines up with how I saw the debate.

Nikki Haley continued to impress with her preparation and presentation. Looking more and more presidential. Takes command of the moment and is not afraid to dish it out. Next level for Haley is selling a broader vision vs. listing policy complaints and talking points. If she can get to the Big Why, look out. A-

Ron DeSantis was better but just seems uncomfortable on the multi candidate debate stage. You can tell when he says to himself, “don’t forget to smile!”

He’s going on Bill Maher this weekend one on one, so maybe Maher will get him to loosen up. B

Vivek Ramaswamy took some serious shots last night, as predicted, and came across as weak. Offering up early the “everyone up here is a good person” was meant to blunt the expected attacks for saying in Milwaukee, that “everyone is bought and paid for.”

Yeah, Vivek is “THAT guy” – you know the one from high school that when we leaves the room, pretty much everyone rolls their eyes – THAT guy. Tim Scott put an early end to his facade by calling out his obvious duplicity. Expect to see Vivek’s numbers fall off even more. C

Note to class – don’t be That Guy

Tim Scott was much better overall but failed to make the sale – again. Still, better is better and he will advance to Miami. I’m not sure why everyone is holding out hope for Scott to all of a sudden become a great presidential candidate. It’s okay – even very good – to carry the load in the U.S. Senate. Just sayin… B-

(And what was Fox News thinking opening the debate with a question to Scott – the candidate who’s in polling in fifth? The first question should have gone to DeSantis who didn’t get in on the conversation until the 16 minute mark. Leading off with Tim Scott? Nice try, Fox. Swing and a miss.)

Doug Burgum continues to get some serious looks from folks with his experience and new/outsider view of things. Not surprised at all that Drudge voters saw it too. He passed Mike Pence and will likely overtake Chris Christie by Iowa. Overall B+

Chris Christie. Try though he might to deliver some witty barbs that sting, Christie usually misses the mark. Self deprecation is ALWAYS more effective and the candidate who tries the funny canned lines? That’s the one who NEVER wins the election. Ever. The Donald Duck line was just…off. And Biden sleeping with a member of the teacher union? Just…why? Thanks for the visual. C

Mike Pence looked old, sounded old, and sold the past. Politics is about the future and Pence ain’t it. His attempts to resurrect and claim the Reagan mantle have fallen flat mainly because Pence stood watch during the transition from Republican conservatism to Trump nationalist populism. C-/D+ (and I’m being generous)

Current rankings for the nomination:

First Tier

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Nikki Haley
  3. Ron DeSantis

Second Tier

  1. Vivek Ramaswamy – fell here and could fall even more very soon
  2. Tim Scott
  3. Doug Burgum
  4. Chris Christie
  5. Mike Pence

Yes, the buzz around Youngkin getting in the race is real. Not quite palpable just yet.

IF it happens and Youngkin does announce, it would take a run like Rich Strike in the 2022 Kentucky Derby to pull it off. Not likely, but very possible.

Here’s a good run through of that race to help you visualize what it would take:

Things would have to break like that race for Youngkin to win the nomination.

Here’s my favorite call:

Good tune and great video here: (don’t read too much into it)

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