*** GOP Debate Livewire *** Candidates Face Off in Milwaukee as Trump Sits with Tucker Carlson Instead

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - AUGUST 23: Republican presidential candidates, Vivek Ramaswamy (L)
Win McNamee/Getty

The 2024 GOP presidential primary is now officially underway as several candidates face off on the debate stage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but the biggest elephant is not in the room.

Former President Donald Trump, in a snub to debate network Fox News, instead sat with former Fox host Tucker Carlson for a taped interview rolled out right before the debate on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

However, several other GOP candidates–Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie–are set to appear on the stage. Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum are moderating the debate.

Follow along here on Breitbart News for live updates and analysis of the goings-on both on the debate stage and off where other news, particularly Trump’s interview with Carlson, is being made.

UPDATE 12:35 a.m. ET:

And now Donald Trump Jr. himself is directly calling out Fox News for “trying to censor and silence Trump supporters”:

UPDATE 12:05 a.m. ET:

Now, after the network’s objectively terrible job with the debate, Fox News is trying to ban former President Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr. from the spin room:

UPDATE 12:02 a.m. ET:

Contrast Fox News’s pitiful immigration questions in this debate with the questionnaire Breitbart News published with most of the GOP candidates BEFORE the debate earlier this week. Read the whole questionnaire and story about it here.

The Fox questions were superficial and an afterthought on the issue, whereas the Breitbart News questions were incisive and focused on the core security and economic impacts of migration policy. Frankly, this was–in addition to the laughable failed handling of the actual flow of the debate by moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum–embarrassing how badly Fox News did when it came to the issue of immigration.

Here is a thread on the Breitbart News questionnaire earlier about this too:

UPDATE 11:35 p.m. ET:

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), another Trump supporter, crashed the spin room despite Fox News’s ban on Trump supporters:

UPDATE 11:34 p.m. ET:

After an objectively terrible debate performance where one moderator Bret Baier actually literally admitted during it that the network had lost control of the debate during it, now Fox News is openly trying to censor supporters of former President Donald Trump:

When GOP members of Congress are openly saying on record publicly that the Fox News Channel is censoring them because they are Trump supporters, Rupert Murdoch’s company has a serious problem.

UPDATE 11:30 p.m. ET:

Many are saying Ramaswamy won the debate on stage this evening:

But others saying Haley also had a strong night:

UPDATE 11:20 p.m. ET:

This moment where DeSantis screwed up on Ukraine–and then Ramaswamy nailed it–is particularly salient and part of why Ramaswamy is surging right now:

UPDATE 11:03 p.m. ET:

The debate finally comes to an end, and it’s hard to see how anything changes in this race much after this. If anything, this probably solidifies and intensifies the current trajectory of this race.

UPDATE 10:59 p.m. ET: 

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) says what most Americans are thinking:

UPDATE 10:56 p.m. ET:

Some are saying Ramaswamy was the winner of those on stage because everyone came at him hard:

Meanwhile, others are saying DeSantis’s demeanor during the debate did his flailing campaign no favors:

UPDATE 10:54 p.m. ET:

Fox News is being roundly panned for a total and complete failure of a debate:

UPDATE 10:46 p.m. ET:

Bret Baier just lectured the candidates again. “We’re getting control of this debate,” he said, admonishing those candidates speaking over each other.

UPDATE 10:42 p.m. ET:

The effort to gang-tackle Ramaswamy–apparent by basically every candidate on stage fighting with him, from Pence to DeSantis to Christie to Haley and more–shows a lot about the past of the Republican Party:

The efforts to attack him do not appear to be working though as Ramaswamy is surging in web search traffic:

UPDATE 10:32 p.m. ET:

If you want an indicator about who is winning this debate: The Trump-Carlson interview is now at 78.9 million views and still growing.

UPDATE 10:30 p.m. ET:

DeSantis brings up “Angel moms”–parents who have lost children because of open borders policies in crimes committed by illegal aliens. If it isn’t a first in a presidential debate, it is still a huge moment.

Shortly after, Pence cited successes during the Trump administration on immigration enforcement.

UPDATE 10:28 p.m. ET:

DeSantis says “yes” when MacCallum asks if the U.S. should send special forces military units into Mexico to take out fentanyl traffickers.

UPDATE 10:23 p.m. ET:

For what it’s worth, regardless of that back-and-forth with Ramaswamy, Haley seems to be having a very strong night and continues zoning in on policy and handling herself well outside of the food fights dominating much of the rest of the stage. Haley is probably going to see her numbers rise after this performance. The others? Unclear.

UPDATE 10:20 p.m. ET:

Now Haley and Ramaswamy are going back and forth over Ukraine. Ramaswamy is hammering Haley for what he says are “lies” and Haley argues he has “no foreign policy experience and it shows.”

UPDATE 10:17 p.m. ET:

Pence and Ramaswamy are now duking it out over Ukraine. Pence is defending supporting aid to Ukraine, and Ramaswamy is arguing that doing so is taking America’s eyes off the real adversary of the Chinese Communist Party.

UPDATE 10:14 p.m. ET:

Ramaswamy hammers those candidates he said have “made a pilgrimage” to Ukraine to see Volodymyr Zelensky.

Christie then defends visiting Ukraine.

UPDATE 10:08 p.m. ET:

Several of the candidates–particularly Christie but also DeSantis and Haley–say they think Pence “did the right thing” on Jan. 6, 2021.

UPDATE 10:05 p.m. ET:

The Trump team points out DeSantis was particularly indecisive on that matter:

DeSantis also backed up Pence for certifying the election on Jan. 6, 2021.

UPDATE 10:02 p.m. ET:

Pence and Ramaswamy are still fighting–and the crowd keeps booing Christie to the point where Baier lectures the crowd saying they are delaying getting to major issues by doing so.

UPDATE 10:00 p.m. ET:

When Fox asks who would support Trump if convicted and he wins the GOP nominee, Ramaswamy and several others raise their hands. Christie half-raised his hand and then was booed when he explained himself, then Ramaswamy bashes Christie and defends Trump.

UPDATE 9:57 p.m. ET:

Unbelievably, nearly an hour into this debate, there have been exactly zero questions about immigration or the border–and exactly zero questions about the Russian war in Ukraine and the looming threat of a potential third World War. Baier says when coming back from the second commercial break says that Fox in the second hour of the debate will ask about China, Ukraine, and immigration–but opens with questions about Trump.

UPDATE 9:51 p.m. ET:

This is a pretty good summation of things so far in the Fox News debate:

UPDATE 9:50 p.m. ET:

After trying to push GOP candidates to back leftist views on climate change and abortion, next Fox News anchors next try to push gun control on the candidates. The story of the night so far might be how much of a food fight this debate is, thanks to anchors who have no control over what’s going on–and how the Fox News anchors are trying to push the candidates to the left on major issues. Still no immigration questions, by the way.

UPDATE 9:42 p.m. ET:

Burgum, who also says he is pro-life, argues that there should not be a federal abortion ban. He argues the Tenth Amendment precludes the federal government from doing so. “If we say the feds should be in on this one, where does it stop?” Burgum, who has signed a six-week ban in North Dakota, says it is a states’ rights issue and the federal government should not get involved.

Hutchinson then steps in and argues that it is an issue that the federal government can get involved on this–arguing that it is a “continued debate” and that Republicans need to engage nationally on life.

UPDATE 9:39 p.m. ET:

Next up on life is Pence who disagrees with Haley and argues that the issue of life is not just a state issue but a moral issue. Haley is arguing that the votes are not there for a six-week national abortion ban. But Pence argues that it is the right thing to do.

UPDATE 9:37 p.m. ET:

During the commercial break, DeSantis and Christie were seen having a powwow on stage:

UPDATE 9:36 p.m. ET: 

After the commercial break, the first question from the Fox News anchors is a question about whether a six-week abortion ban. That question goes to Haley, who lays out she is pro-life and explains several policies she backs.

Then the anchors go to DeSantis who is defending his signing of such a six-week ban. “What the Democrats are trying to do on this issue is wrong,” DeSantis says.

UPDATE 9:27 p.m. ET:

Fox News anchors ask the candidates to raise their hands if they believe humans are causing climate change. In response, before anyone could raise their hands, DeSantis begins yelling again and does not offer a clear answer.

Ramaswamy then suggests DeSantis’s answer suggests he meant to raise his hand. Then Ramaswamy accuses everyone else of being bought and paid for. Christie interjects to insult Ramaswamy–and the Fox anchors throw it to Haley to answer who quotes Margaret Thatcher and then launches into a policy explanation about climate issues.

UPDATE 9:22 p.m. ET:

After DeSantis pops off about COVID and lockdowns, Ramaswamy comes back and hits Pence and DeSantis as “puppets” of Super PACs and references uncovered documents from DeSantis’s super PAC crafting his debate strategy talking points.

The Fox News anchors scramble to regain control of the conversation and then throw it to Burgum and then Hutchinson for their comments on the economy.

UPDATE 9:18 p.m. ET:

Pence, during his first answer, defends his record. Then, after a back-and-forth between Pence and Ramaswamy things get a bit testy.

“Now is not the time for on-the-job training,” Pence says taking a shot at Ramaswamy.

UPDATE 9:15 p.m. ET:

Scott points to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act from the Trump administration as a way to push money back to Americans.

Ramaswamy is then asked by Baier why voters should choose him over a more seasoned politician.
“I am genuinely worried that that American dream will not exist for our two sons if we don’t do something,” Ramaswamy says, arguing that for too long even among Republicans career politicians have been hurting the country.

Haley is up next and she bashes Republicans for over-spending–she takes a shot at DeSantis, Pence, Scott, and Trump right off the bat. “I think it’s time for an accountant in the White House,” Haley says.

UPDATE: 9:08 p.m. ET:

Fox News opens the debate with videos of Democrat President Joe Biden talking about “Bidenomics” and contrasting it with Oliver Anthony’s hit song “Rich Men North of Richmond.” DeSantis gets the first question asking why Anthony’s song is resonating, and he says the country is “in decline.”

He said if Hunter Biden is getting rich off paintings while ordinary Americans are struggling, “that is wrong.”

“I showed we can get it done in the state of Florida and I pledge to you as your president I will get it done,” DeSantis said.

The second question goes to Christie, he says he “predominantly” agrees with what DeSantis said but argued that DeSantis will have a tough time winning nationally.

UPDATE 8:58 p.m. ET:

Tucker Carlson’s interview with former President Donald Trump is live on X:

The interview, slightly than 46 minutes in length, already has more than 3 million views.

UPDATE 8:55 p.m. ET:

Moments away from the debate beginning, the GOP candidates have taken their positions on the stage.

UPDATE 8:44 p.m. ET:

NBC News discovered a document that shows several Trump aides were listed as banned from the premises:

Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, blasted Fox News for engaging in efforts to censor former President Donald Trump’s campaign:

A Fox spokesperson, though, is quoted as saying the network did not create this controversial document:

UPDATE 8:21 p.m. ET:

In an interview with CBS News, Jeff Roe–one of the senior-most advisers to the pro-DeSantis Super PAC Never Back Down–struggled to explain the pathway forward for the candidate he supports:

In this particularly revealing interview, Roe repeatedly says ahead of the debate that “we’re excited.” But he also would not predict during it that DeSantis will win Iowa–though he did argue DeSantis’s position is more enviable than Trump’s in the Hawkeye State. In addition, Roe in this interview refused to explain what DeSantis meant when he attacked Trump supporters as “listless vessels,” continually deferring to DeSantis himself saying he would let the governor answer that question. What’s more, Roe argued in this interview that the race is a two-man race between Trump and DeSantis despite the fact that several polls both national ones and state level ones including from Ohio, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and more show DeSantis no longer in second place behind Trump.

UPDATE 8:09 p.m. ET:

Tucker Carlson released this teaser promo clip of his interview with Trump shortly before the debate:

Carlson’s interview is expected to drop right as the debate begins.

UPDATE 8:03 p.m. ET:

An hour from the debate’s start, Breitbart News’s Joel Pollak–who is in Milwaukee for us tonight–sends this image of SEIU-sponsored protests outside the GOP debate:

Pollak is in the spin room for Breitbart News:

And he notes that the Democrats are trying to troll the GOP too:

Burgum, by the way, who injured his Achilles tendon during a game of pickup basketball, is reportedly expected to participate in the debate despite being on crutches.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.