Sunday, June 23, 2024
Sunday, June 23, 2024

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

1st GOP Presidential Debate: Our Winners & Losers


People expected the first GOP presidential debate sans Trump to be boring. It wasn’t. Grumpy Mike Pence bickering with a caffeinated Vivek Ramaswamy was entertaining. We half expected Pence to tell 38-year-old Vivek to get off his lawn. However, the guy who won the debate was probably the guy who wasn’t there.

Donald Trump.

As for the rest, Asa Hutchinson (who?) and Chris Christie (a total tool) should be voted off the island before the next debate. Burgum and Hutchinson seemed like they wandered onto the debate stage from the audience at first, but Burgum has his fans, and he seems like a great guy (and the one who emphasizes small town values). Pence, Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and Ron DeSantis made it through to the next round. Second place still feels like DeSantis’s to lose, but he hasn’t sealed the deal. And that’s for #2.

Trump won the debate because no clear victor emerged from the squabbling eight on the stage, and he’s so far ahead in the polls. No one had a slam dunk performance, although several acquitted themselves well. Some helped themselves (Nikki Haley), some didn’t hurt themselves (Ron DeSantis), but no one blew away the competition (views on Ramaswamy’s animated pro Trump performance are polarized.)

By the time we fell asleep on debate night, Trump’s interview with Tucker Carlson had racked up an astonishing 129 million impressions on X, formerly Twitter. By Thursday afternoon, it was up to 235 million impressions. In contrast, 12.8 million viewers watched the Fox News debate with the other candidates. Impressions aren’t necessarily views by a single person, but they’re still massive numbers that continue the realignment of the media (thank you Elon Musk).

For those ensconced in a bubble watching only the GOP debate at first (like us, as we were there), it felt like a time warp, an alternative reality of a political world without Trump, a political Barbieland divorced from the real world. The debates were policy-focused and serious, but the reality is that millions of people watched the Tucker interview instead, and on Thursday night, Trump is traveling to Fulton County, Georgia, to turn himself in, so he will continue to suck the air out of the room. He’s way ahead in the polls. It’s hard to see how the debate changes that much, although Haley, Ramaswamy and maybe DeSantis could see shifts in their numbers.

It was a pretty diverse field. That’s a little ironic considering the Democratic field is basically geriatric white men.

That being said, there were some other winners, losers and other performances deserving scrutiny:


Nikki Haley

Haley was a debate winner because she was the candidate who most exceeded expectations. No one was talking about her before the debate, but they are now, at least as serious vice presidential timber. Views on her are polarized in the conservative base. Some see her as a pro-war neocon, whereas others label her a “globalist.” She was strongest schooling Ramaswamy on Putin (although the degree we should be funding Ukraine is worthy of serious debate.) She found a way to talk about abortion that other candidates might emulate.

Ron DeSantis

The Florida governor was a debate winner because he didn’t make a huge mistake. He was the guy with the most to lose; if DeSantis had had an awful night, or a big gaffe, instead, it might have spelled the end of his already stalling campaign. He was a bit awkward, over-serious, and seemed to shout a bit at the beginning. But that’s authentically who he is – the guy who probably wouldn’t get the joke in the room because he’s too busy thinking about destroying cartels and firing George Soros prosecutors (both strong points for him on the debate stage). However, he didn’t hurt himself because, when he did speak, he was strong and substantive, and he’s got the policy successes in Florida to back it up. Weirdly, Pence and Haley trained their ire on Ramaswamy, leaving DeSantis virtually unscathed. People who listened only on the radio, though, felt DeSantis vanished too much.

Tucker Carlson

Fox, who?


Mike Pence

Why is Pence in this thing? He’s blamed for being part of the Trump administration by those who hate it and some of those who love it blame him for standing up to Trump on J6 (he was right to follow the Constitution). He’s thus triangulated out of serious consideration.

One suspects that Pence is in this thing for redemption; to get validation that he wasn’t wrong that day (he got it on the debate stage). He probably helped himself somewhat because he dominated a lot of the debate. But he came across like a Bush era politician who stumbled through a wormhole out of the 1990s onto the debate stage. Overall, his style of speaking comes across as annoying, he blew through the buzzer too many times, and no one seems to like the guy. That might be unfair, but it doesn’t seem like he’s going anywhere.

Vivek Ramaswamy

He’s an acquired taste, and a polarizing figure. The older folks sitting behind us at the debate described him as smooth and said they liked him better before. However, an 18 year old we know liked Ramaswamy the most. On our wall, our conservative audience was sharply divided; for every comment from someone who said they loved him, came another person who thought he seemed smarmy or like a used car salesman. He was great in moments (the tonal reset), but seemed to lack gravitas in others (the battle with Haley over Ukraine). Ironically, of everyone on stage, he sort of seemed most like a politician.

Ramaswamy’s biggest problem, though, is that he was the only candidate in the “Trump lane.” That gains him fans on X. However, Trump voters are going to pick Trump in the end, not Trump Lite.

There are accusations that Ramaswamy is just in the race to beat up the other candidates to help Trump. It kind of makes sense.

However, he’s being talked about a lot more than before the debate, and it’s a lot worse to be ignored. He strikes us as the Andrew Yang of the 2024 presidential campaign.

Tim Scott

He’s a smart, serious guy who seems well-versed in policy. But he doesn’t have a lot of charisma on a debate stage. He seemed a little….sleepy. The Republican field is better with him in it.

Fox News

The moderators could have hit the transgender/education issues sooner, and some questions were goofy (COVID lockdowns causing crime?) But they did a good job steering the debate toward serious policy discussions and away from the dramas around Trump. It ended up being an informative debate. There were too many candidates on the stage though. However, Trump dissing Fox for Tucker was very bad for Fox.


Chris Christie

He just comes across like an as*. He actually can be funny (the UFO line) and he’s not wrong on some policies and positions (defunding the police for example), but he loses the narrative when he rants and raves about Trump. It seems aggressive and personal.

Christie has come out opposed to state bans on transgender treatments for children, which in our view, disqualifies him from any serious consideration.

Doug Burgum and Asa Hutchinson

Seriously, what were those guys doing there was our first thought?

However, when Hutchinson was Arkansas’ Republican governor, he vetoed an anti-transgender health care bill that would’ve prohibited gender-affirming procedures for children. Again, as in Christie’s case, we believe this automatically disqualifies him from any serious consideration.

Burgum earned some fans as the debate wore on, though.

Here is an interesting perspective on why Burgum won the debate.

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Vice President Kamala Harris has a fight on her hands if she wants to inherit the Democratic presidential mantle after President Joe Biden’s time is over, according to a new poll.

The Politico/Morning Consult poll shows that voters have serious doubts about Harris’ electability.

The poll found only 14% of voters said it was “very likely” Harris would win a general election for president if she became the Democratic nominee. Another 20% said it was “somewhat likely.”

The poll is especially noteworthy given Biden's age. The incumbent president is 81 years old and appears increasingly in decline.

A moment of confusion for Biden at a June 6 D-Day ceremony went viral last week, the latest in a string of similar incidents. At the same time, Biden remains competitive with former President Donald Trump, though several polls suggest Trump has a lead over the president.

Biden's incidents have led some to speculate that Democrats could or should try to replace Biden at the Democratic convention in Chicago in August. That would be a highly unusual, though not impossible, move. Removing Biden would naturally raise the question about who could replace him, but for now voters seem to lack confidence that Harris could win.

The poll also looked ahead to 2028: “If President Joe Biden were not in the running for president in 2028, which of the following Democrats, if any, would you want to be the Democratic candidate for president?”

While Harris was top of the list among Democrats, she only received 21% support. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg both received 10% support each, while 41% said they were unsure or didn't know.

Only 42% of those polled described Harris as trustworthy, and 44% described her as honest, according to the poll.

Notably, only 36% of those surveyed said Biden should replace Harris as his VP on the ticket.

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(The Center Square) – Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol don’t want Gov. Tony Evers to waste the chance to get a good look at Milwaukee Public Schools’ shortcomings.

Evers recently called for an operational and an instructional audit of MPS.

“I’m proposing today to go two steps further with two important goals: the first, to audit MPS’ programs and operations in their entirety, and the second, to audit the effectiveness of teaching and instruction of our kids in classrooms across the district,” Evers said.

The governor, however, wants to keep the audit within his administration and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said that’d be a mistake.

“I’m glad that Gov. Evers has called for an audit of the Milwaukee Public School System. Gov. Evers and DPI should work with Joint Legislative Audit Committee Co-Chairs [Eric] Wimberger and [Robert] Wittke to discuss authorizing the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau to audit MPS, DPI and any other involved stakeholders,” LeMahieu said. “The LAB is more than capable of handling this important undertaking independently and transparently without the use of outside contractors.”

The worry is an audit controlled by the governor’s office will not fully look into MPS’s shortcomings.

The calls for audits in Milwaukee Public Schools come after the state withheld nearly $17 million last week because of incomplete and late financial reports. One of those reports was due to the Department of Public Instruction in September 2023.

Evers has asked MPS leaders to be a part of any audit process but warned that not everyone will be invited.

“I also have to say – I’m exceedingly disappointed by the politicking and jockeying I’ve seen since this situation came to light by opportunists who’re seizing this moment to serve their own selfish goals instead of worrying about what matters most: our kids,” Evers added.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos took to social media to accuse the governor of being the one who is playing politics.

“And who do you think [Evers] will suggest conducts the audits?” Vos asked. “The same failed DPI bureaucrats who allowed this to happen or his administration who wanted to dismantle the school choice system so all kids were forced into this MPS mess? We need real reforms to the current mentality where MPS has been protecting the bureaucracy and Gov. Evers has been advocating for shoveling hundreds of millions of dollars into this broken system.”

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Biden’s New Staffing Requirements Put Most Illinois Nursing Homes in Peril

An industry group says the Biden administration’s new staffing regulations for long-term care facilities are unrealistic.

The mandate requires that all nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding provide a total of at least 3.48 hours of nursing care per resident per day. Plus, nursing homes must have a registered nurse onsite at all times.

Research by shows 82%, or nearly 12,000 facilities in the U.S., will need to hire staff or face being shut down.

Spokesperson Corie Wagner said Illinois is home to the fifth highest number of understaffed nursing homes in the country.

“If we were to apply the new policies and new standards to nursing homes in Illinois today, 84% of facilities would need more staff, and that is really significant,” said Wagner.

The mandate will be phased in over three years, with rural communities having up to five years.

Nursing home operators strongly objected to the minimum staffing proposal in September, saying they already struggle to fill open positions.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in September announced a $75 million campaign to increase the number of nurses in nursing homes.

Nearly 1.2 million residents live in Medicare- and Medicaid-certified, long-term care facilities, but Wagner said that number is expected to increase.

“It’s called the Silver Tsunami, so more Americans are aged 65 or older than ever,” said Wagner. “It's one of the largest segments of our population but the infrastructure we have is not keeping up with our population shift.”

A resolution aimed at overturning Biden’s nursing home staffing mandate has a legitimate chance to pass the U.S. Senate.

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