Debate Takeaways:

Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum were the moderators. It was a barely controlled free-for-all.

Ramaswamy was there to look presidential, and his first answer was to introduce himself and make his sales pitch, not to answer the question about “Bidenomics”. He referred to the rest of the candidates “pac puppets”.

Christy was combative, attacked Ramaswamy, comparing him to Obama, opened the door for the rest to label Ramaswamy as an “amateur”.

Pence was condescendingly superior.

Haley clearly is the “women’s perspective” candidate

DeSantis was obviously told to dial up the energy level and avoid conflict

Tim Scott was respectful and informed but below the average energy level

Asa Hutchinson – also low energy – was a smiling career politician

Doug Burgum was uncomfortable, but knowledgeable 

Almost All GOP Candidates Say They Would Back Trump If He’s Convicted

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis raised their hands when asked if they would vote for former President Donald Trump were he to be convicted.

It was a notable moment during the Aug. 23 GOP presidential primary debate, moderated by Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

President Trump has been indicted in Manhattan allegedly for committing a campaign finance violation by giving hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels; separately, on the federal level, for allegedly mishandling documents and trying to overturn the 2020 election; and in Fulton County, Georgia, for allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 election in the Peach State. He has pleaded not guilty in the first three cases and is scheduled to surrender at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta on Aug. 24 in the fourth case, though his arraignment will be at a later date.

Former Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) held up his finger, but not to signal that he would back President Trump were he to be the GOP nominee even if convicted. Instead, he said that the right must cease normalization of the former president’s conduct and that sort of behavior is “beneath the office of president of the United States.” His remarks brought jeers from the audience.

Mr. Ramaswamy gave a full-throated defense of President Trump, calling him “the best president of the 21st century.” [AUDIO]

The United States “cannot set a precedent where the party in power uses police force to indict its political opponents,” he said, calling for an end to the “weaponization” of the justice system. The audience cheered.

The noise caused Mr. Baier to turn around and tell the audience to cut it out.

Mr. Christie fired back at Mr. Ramaswamy, citing his experience as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey and as governor of the Garden State. He said he would not “bow” to President Trump and blasted what he called his “[disrespect] for the Constitution.” During what was a debate on Fox News, a right-leaning outlet, Mr. Ramaswamy compared Mr. Christie to a contributor on the left-wing network MSNBC.

The candidates, except for Mr. Ramaswamy, took the view that former Vice President Mike Pence, who was on the debate stage, was in the right on Jan. 6, 2021, when he “sided with the Constitution” over President Trump’s demands during the congressional certification of the 2020 election.

Mr. Scott, lamenting what he called the “weaponization” of the Department of Justice, vowed to fire Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Gov. DeSantis called for the end of the “weaponization of government.”

Former Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) reiterated his belief that President Trump disqualified himself from being president again due to his actions on Jan. 6, prompting more jeers from the audience.

Ms. Haley called for “a new generational conservative leader,” and the audience cheered. She said most of the American people do not want a rematch between President Joe Biden and President Trump, noting that President Trump is the “most disliked politician in America.”

She concluded with, “We can’t win a general election that way,” prompting a mixture of cheers and jeers.

During his interview with former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, President Trump blasted the indictments against him. He called them “ridiculous,” “nonsense” and “[expletive],” adding that “maybe there’ll be more.” The interview was posted on Mr. Carlson’s page on X, formerly Twitter, in what was an apparent attempt to counter-program the GOP debate.

5 Questions from Trump’s Interview With Carlson

1. “Whatever Happened to Mike Pence? He’s out there attacking you. What is that?” asked Mr. Carlson.

Mr. Pence has repeatedly said he had no right to overturn the 2020 election. He launched his presidential campaign in early June. He said that the Aug. 1 indictment of President Trump in Fulton County, Georgia, for allegedly trying to overturn the Peach State’s 2020 election results “serves as an important reminder: anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be President of the United States.”

He also said President Trump’s “candidacy means less attention paid to Joe Biden’s disastrous economic policies afflicting millions across the United States and to the pattern of corruption with Hunter.”

Mr. Pence said, “Our country is more important than one man. Our Constitution is more important than any one man’s career. On January 6th, former President Trump demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution. I chose the Constitution and I always will.”

President Trump responded to Mr. Carlson, “In my opinion, Mike Pence had the absolute right to send the votes back to the legislatures.”

“I think he got very bad advice,” he added.

2. Did Jeffrey Epstein Kill Himself?

Long before entering the White House, President Trump had occasionally socialized with Mr. Epstein, but the pair’s encounters stopped more than a decade before Trump’s first presidential run.

President Trump replied: “I don’t know. I will say that you know, he was a fixture in Palm Beach.”

3. ‘Do You Think We’re Moving Toward Civil War?’

It is no secret that the American people are ideologically and politically divided. Talk of another civil war has long been brewing. President Trump did not believe that conflict is imminent. “There’s tremendous passion and there’s tremendous love,” he said.

4. ‘Do You Think It’s Possible There’ll Be Open Conflict?’

This is Mr. Carlson’s follow-up to his question about whether the United States is “moving toward civil war.”

President Trump responds: “I don’t know. There’s a level of passion I’ve never seen. There’s a level of hatred I’ve never seen. And there’s probably a bad combination.”

5. ‘Are You Worried You’ll Be Killed?’

“It started with protests against you, then it moved to impeachment twice, now indictment,” said Mr. Carlson. “Are you worried that they are going to try and kill you? Why wouldn’t they try to kill you, honestly?”

“They’re savage animals,” former President Trump responded. “They are people that are sick.”

It is unclear if that was former President Trump’s entire answer.