- Nikki Haley: Haley’s debate skills shone brightly once again, with her quick-witted retort to Ramaswamy’s criticism involving her daughter’s use of TikTok becoming the night’s standout moment. Despite the personal nature of the attack, Haley’s sharp response likely struck a chord with many, particularly parents. Her adept handling of various topics, including foreign policy and social issues, solidified her position as a formidable debater. Her nuanced stance on abortion appears especially astute following recent electoral shifts, and her overall performance did nothing but enhance her standing as a leading candidate.
- Ron DeSantis: Despite a previously lackluster campaign, DeSantis delivered his strongest debate showing yet. His positions on Israel and Ukraine resonated with the audience, and he held his ground on domestic issues, including the fentanyl crisis. This debate marked a significant improvement for DeSantis, helping him to step out from the shadows and into the spotlight in his home state.
- Donald Trump: Trump’s strategy to skip the debates has paid off, as he maintains a commanding lead in the polls. His absence prevents direct confrontations, allowing him to maintain his lead without the risk of a damaging exchange.
- NBC News Moderators: The debate benefited from the structured and thoughtful moderation by Lester Holt and Kristen Welker. Their approach allowed for a more focused debate on critical issues like foreign policy, the addiction crisis, and abortion rights, providing a serviceable platform for voters.
- Chris Christie: Christie’s performance was competent, covering a range of topics from technology concerns to national defense. However, his anti-Trump stance and the loyalty of the party base to Trump make his path to the nomination incredibly challenging.
- Vivek Ramaswamy: Ramaswamy’s night was marred by his controversial remarks, particularly his unfounded criticism of Haley’s family and his inappropriate comment about Ukraine’s President Zelensky. These moments likely did not endear him to voters, especially those he needs to sway.
- Tim Scott: Scott’s performance failed to ignite the spark that his campaign desperately needs. Without any significant missteps but also without any notable highlights, he did little to quell the growing suggestion that he should reconsider his candidacy.