Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis paused for several moments then turned his head to look at his opponents before raising his hand when the Republican primary debate moderators asked the candidates if they would support former President Donald Trump if he is convicted of any crimes.
“You all signed a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee. If former President Trump is convicted in a court of law, would you still support him As your party’s choice? Please raise your hand if you would,” the moderator asked the eight candidates.
Vivek Ramaswamy was the first candidate to respond, boldly raising his hand high. Shortly after Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley raised her hand, followed by Sen. Tim Scott (SC) and Gov. Doug Burgum (ND).
DeSantis looked to his right, and then to his left, before he became the fifth candidate to raise his hand.
WOW – Ron had to check out the rest of the stage to decide whether or not to raise his hand.
— Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) August 24, 2023
Former Vice President Mike Pence raised his hand after DeSantis, followed by Chris Christie, who seemed to raise his hand halfway. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was the only candidate who refused to pledge to support Trump if he is convicted of any crime.
When the moderator questioned Christie about his hesitance, the former New Jersey governor explained that “someone’s got to stop normalizing” Trump’s conduct.
“Now, whether or not you believe that the criminal charges are right or wrong, the conduct is beneath the office of President of the United States,” Christie said.
Ramaswamy interrupted Christie to declare that Trump “was the best president of the 21st century.”
“It’s a fact. honest to God, your claim that Donald Trump is motivated by vengeance and grievance would be a lot more credible,” Ramaswamy said to Christie. “If your entire campaign were not based on vengeance and grievance against one man.”
“Blindly bashing Donald Trump without an iota of vision for this country, they can just change the channel to MSNBC right now, but I’m not running for president of MSNBC,” Ramaswamy continued. “I am running for President of the United States. We’re skating on thin ice and we cannot set a precedent where the party in power uses police force to indict its political opponents. It’s wrong.”
If folks at home want to watch a bunch of people blindly bash Trump, they can just flip the channel and watch MSNBC right now. But I’m not running for President of MSNBC, I’m running for President of the United States. pic.twitter.com/aNEyvtrm4S
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) August 24, 2023
At one point, the Fox News moderators lost control of the debate, prompting Bret Baier to turn around and tell the crowd, “The more time we spend doing this, the less time they can talk about issues you want to talk about. So let’s just get through this section.”
Christie responded to Ramaswamy, telling him, “You’ve never done it like you’ve never done anything to try to advance the interests of this government except to put yourself forward as a candidate tonight.”