Key Debate Takeaways

August 23, 2023The Lincoln Project releases the following takeaways on the first GOP primary debate: 

  • The winner of tonight’s debate was President Joe Biden. Even without Trump on the stage, the “debate” was a two hour grievance-fest pushing a twisted, dystopian vision of America that should give us all pause. 
  • Between Trump’s unhinged interview with Tucker Carlson and the ranting and ravings of the Presidential debate, the GOP’s unity around its bankrupt agenda was on full display: an obsessive culture war that will rollback individual rights, destroy public schools, allow dictators and autocrats to run rampant, and deny basic science. 
  • None of these candidates are interested in governing, only gaining more celebrity and influence so they can either score a cable TV deal or get into Trump’s good graces and be considered for a possible job. 
  • Tonight’s debate reaffirmed there are no alternatives to Trump with each candidate failing to offer any competing vision, they were clearly trying to walk the line between appeasing Trump and distinguishing themselves– and it didn’t work! 
  • Trump wants to be re-elected to seek revenge. He wants to destroy his political enemies, eliminate the Department of Justice and rule the nation based on his whims and grievances, regardless of what the law requires. 
  • The refusal by each candidate – except Chris Christie – to confront the realities and crimes of January 6th, should frighten every American who believes in the rule of law and the Constitution.  The candidates’ insistence that we forget January 6th shows they do not take democracy seriously and are willing to accept Trump’s criminality if it helps their own political careers. 
  • As Trump poses for his mugshot on Thursday, his domination and hold over the party is still absolute. The GOP is a fundamentally broken party that is now a cult in support of an autocratic demigod. 
  • Tonight’s debate was a distraction from the issue at hand: Democracy is threatened by the current GOP, not just Donald Trump, but all the candidates on stage tonight who are willing to follow him down a path to destroy our nation’s democracy.  
  • President Biden’s three years of success deeply contrasts with the reality show the GOP put on tonight. President Biden has turned the economy around after Covid, passed the most sweeping infrastructure law in generations that will provide jobs, and brought decency and responsibility back to the White House.
  • After tonight, there is no question that President Biden is the only candidate who supports the rule of law and will fight for democracy at home and around the world.

The Lincoln Project is a leading pro-democracy organization in the United States — dedicated to the preservation, protection, and defense of democracy.

To learn more about The Lincoln Project, go to


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