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First Republican Presidential Debate 2023: Winners and Losers



MILWAUKEE, Wi. (FNN) — The first Republican Presidential Primary Debate was held last night in the heartland of the Midwest. In the past two elections, Wisconsin has been a battleground state like no other, which only makes it right that the Republican candidates hungry to consolidate some momentum and put in their best effort in an attempt to swing the polls.

Now, with first blood drawn, it’s time to recap the strongest performances of the night as we look towards more policy debates (and mudslinging) to come.



Nikki Haley

Say what you will about Nikki Haley’s rise to prominence within the Republican Party, but last night was a turning-of-the-head moment for her in this campaign. For all the flack that seasoned politicians have been getting when it comes to their corruption within politics, Haley’s comments criticizing both left- and right-wing policies were a breath of fresh air.



Not to mention her Kodak moments ripping into Vivek and schooling him in relation to foreign policy. When it came to our understanding of allies on the world stage, Haley’s politics were the most comprehensive of any candidate. She will undoubtedly make this her anchor for the rest of her campaign. In an attempt to get one over as the lone woman in an all-boys club, this is her best path to victory.


Mike Pence

Undoubtedly one of the biggest performers of last night. At first, Pence’s opening statements seemed a little fumbled and misconstrued when he talked down on Vivek Ramaswamy’s experience. Even still, Pence and the moderators did a good job of making the January insurrection topic a line in the sand for everyone on that stage. He even managed to throw in a couple of snide remarks to his old commander-in-chief. As the debate progressed, he took no issue with taking jabs and returning verbal punches when applicable.



Is he capable of going all the way? Probably not. But this debate did a great job at restoring some of the integrity to Pence’s name as his former boss is on the cusp of his fourth indictment.


Doug Burgum

The North Dakota governor had a tough time even making the stage after suffering an Achilles injury the day before. Nonetheless, his performance in the debate along with his answers were admirable. For a governor who is in charge of one of the biggest oil states in the country, his plan on energy diversification was much more nuanced and digestible in comparison to Ramaswamy’s archaic views on energy.

Despite his good ideas, it seems like Burgum has his work cut out for him in order to make a breakthrough on the polls.


Middle of the Pack

Chris Christie

The former New Jersey governor had a moment to shine when he criticized Vivek Ramaswamy for his “ChatGPT” like answers and talking points. However, the overall energy from Christie was lackluster, and Vivek had some poignant counterpoints when it came to his record on Trump. Tough talking points are great, but unlike his stature, his words rarely hold the same amount of weight. His best moments on stage were quarreling with others, not advancing his own agenda—which he needed to do badly in this debate to gain traction.


Vivek Ramaswamy

The verbose “outsider” of the GOP primary race has been red-hot since he announced his presidential campaign. However, being a charismatic public speaker didn’t get him points when it came to policy. The first-generation American was jeered to loud gasps and “aww”s when he openly proclaimed that Climate Change was a “hoax.”

He then got taken for a ride when it came to foreign policy, with Nikki Haley having the most quotable moment of the night at Vivek’s expense.

Is he charming? Yes. Is he inexperienced and proving himself a rawer candidate than previously thought? Absolutely. This debate was a back-to-the-drawing-board moment for Ramaswamy as he needs to come back to the debate table with substance, not just shocking statements of ‘American Revolution’ that ring hollower with each utterance. With each statement, he seems more like a Trump hologram and less like his own candidate.



Ron DeSantis

The Florida governor came out strong despite an awkward smile. While the steam seemed authentic in the early goings, his talking points started to become redundant. He stands for kids, he stands for families, he stands for freedom…but the most damning thing about his campaign thus far is his inability to come off as an authentic and likable leader to Americans outside of the Florida electorate bubble.

That’s partly why his campaign has been in a tailspin as of late. While this debate didn’t derail his campaign entirely, the ground he needs to make up may be too high to overcome. Considering DeSantis’ strongest numbers on the campaign trail were only at the very beginning, the coming months will surely be a moment of reckoning for him and his team.


Ron DeSantis defending his lukewarm debate performance in Milwaukee. Video: Forbes.


Asa Hutchinson

Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson had very little time in the limelight last night and we can see why. Hutchinson’s disposition to criticize both the left and the right didn’t seem to strike a chord with either end of the aisle that well. Given his current standings in the polls, the likelihood of him making it to the next stretch of debates is highly unlikely.


Donald Trump

With the indictments of Donald Trump looming over this debate like a giant Republican elephant in the room, his name came up a surprisingly few amount of times. At this stage, it’s obvious to see Trump’s absence at the debate was more of a preservation tactic than it was a political calculation.

With the Fulton County Jail arraignment already in progress, it’s hard to fight for the presidential seat when you may very well be behind bars. Donald Trump is always seeking to have his name in the headlines. But even his own campaign team can admit that sometimes, there is such a thing as bad publicity. This recent stretch of weeks has been just that for the former President.


Tim Scott

The South Carolina senator is one of the long shots poll-wise who made it to the debate stage. He had his work cut out for him, competing alongside his state’s former governor Nikki Haley, who came out strong and decisive in her talking points. Adequate fundraising at the state level seems to be Scott’s biggest selling point, but it won’t be enough to catapult him towards the next stretch of debates at this juncture.


Nicolas Vera is a Florida National News reporter. |


Florida Chamber of Commerce Unveils 2024 Legislative Report Card and Distinguished Advocate Award Recipients



Today, the Florida Chamber of Commerce unveiled its 2024 Legislative Report Card, showcasing grades earned by all 160 legislators in the Florida House and Senate based on their votes during the 2024 Legislative Session, and also awarded 15 Legislators the 2024 Distinguished Advocate Award.

“Florida currently has a $1.62 trillion economy and is continuing to grow and diversify,” said Florida Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Mark Wilson. “I want to thank Governor Ron DeSantis, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, Speaker Paul Renner and the pro-jobs legislators who continued to put Florida’s business climate first by prioritizing the growth of private sector jobs and diversifying our economy.”


The Florida Chamber Distinguished Advocate Award recognizes lawmakers who ensured consideration of the business community’s legislative priorities and fought tirelessly for the passage of a Chamber-backed policy or a priority piece of pro-jobs legislation.

2024 Distinguished Advocate Award Recipients:

House Speaker Paul Renner
Representative Jennifer Canady
Representative Tiffany Esposito
Representative Sam Garrison
Representative Mike Giallombardo
Representative Jason Shoaf
Representative John Temple
Representative Dana Trabulsy
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo
Senator Jim Boyd
Senator Colleen Burton
Senator Nick DiCeglie
Senator Erin Grall
Senator Jay Trumbull
Senator Clay Yarborough

For a full description of the leadership each legislator exhibited to earn the Distinguished Advocate Award, click here.


The Florida Chamber’s 2024 Legislative Report Card is an annual opportunity to recognize members of the Florida Legislature who placed making Florida more competitive through their support for free enterprise over special interests and attempts to protect the status quo. The Report Card also lets Florida families, local businesses, taxpayers and voters know who voted in favor of private sector job creation and a stronger, more diversified economy.

After tabulating more than 5,700 votes cast during the 2024 Legislative Session, the Florida Chamber’s Legislative Report Card shows:

  • Average GPA for both legislative chambers was 87 percent
  • Average Senate GPA was 89 percent
  • Average House GPA was 86 percent

Lawmakers who earned high grades this legislative session focused on important competitiveness issues such as those outlined in our end-of-session recap, which can be found here.


  • The Florida Chamber’s legislative grading process is both transparent and accountable.
  • The Florida Business Agenda (FBA) was announced in concert with the opening of the 2024 Legislative Session.
  • The Florida Business Agenda, outlined in the Chamber’s annual Where We Stand publication was delivered to each member of the Florida Legislature in advance of voting.
  • Florida Chamber leadership raised awareness of the legislative agenda through meetings with numerous media, legislators and staff in advance of session, during the interim committee weeks, and over the nine-week legislative session.
  • Most importantly, prior to each vote graded on the Report Card, a “Your Vote Matters” letter outlining the pro-business position and the Florida Chamber’s intent to score the vote was transmitted to voting members of the legislature.

To see the grades received by each of Florida’s 160 Legislators following the 2024 Legislative Session, visit

The Florida Chamber will soon release its annual How They Voted publication, which in addition to legislator grades and awards, will include a full recap of what passed, what was defeated, and what remains unfinished business following the 2024 Legislative Session.


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Florida Chamber of Commerce Endorses U.S. Senator Rick Scott for Reelection



Florida Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Mark Wilson stood with former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Rick Scott yesterday in Tampa at a local manufacturing facility to announce the rollout of the “Small Business for Rick Scott” coalition and formally announce the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement of his reelection to the U.S. Senate.

In addition to providing remarks at the press conference, Mark Wilson released the following quote in support of Senator Rick Scott, who signed all 138 Chamber-backed bills sent to his desk during his tenure as Governor:

“No one fights harder for jobs than Senator Rick Scott, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is proud to endorse his reelection. Senator Scott was Florida’s jobs governor, and we were proud to work with him every year to reduce unfair taxes, excessive litigation and nonsensical regulations which helped lead to the incredible economic growth we see in Florida today. As Senator, he’s continued to focus on reining in wasteful spending and getting government out of the way so local businesses can thrive. We look forward to him continuing to serve as Florida’s voice for jobs and a strong economy in Washington!”

Senator Rick Scott thanked Mark Wilson and the business community for their support noting that “the Florida Chamber of Commerce is the best Chamber of Commerce in the country. You talk to people all across the country and there is no Chamber like the Florida Chamber.”

In the Florida Chamber’s recent statewide voter poll, Rick Scott is leading his reelection opponent 54-39 and is up 36 points with Hispanic voters. Video of the full press conference can be found here and you can learn more about the “Small Business for Rick Scott” coalition here.

In addition to Senator Rick Scott’s reelection, the Presidency, the entire Florida Congressional Delegation, all 120 State House seats, half of the Florida Senate seats, 2,637 local offices and half a dozen proposed constitutional amendments are on the 2024 ballot. The Florida Chamber leads the business community’s efforts to recruit and elect better candidates through the Florida Free Enterprise Fund, Florida Chamber Political Institute, and the Florida Institute for Political Leadership. For more information about these initiatives, contact the Florida Chamber’s Executive Vice President of Government & Political Relations Frank Walker at

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Split Screen: Biden’s Delivering Jobs vs. Trump’s Broken Promises



Today in battleground Wisconsin, beyond vibes and pundit speak, voters get to see the clear split screen between President Biden’s record of accomplishment and Donald Trump’s broken promises.

Hell, even our friends at Fox and Friends agree.

President Biden is announcing that Microsoft is making a multi-billion dollar investment in Racine, Wisconsin, that is expected to create thousands of jobs.

For those keeping track, President Biden is delivering JOBS across the Blue Wall:

In Wisconsin, nearly 200,000 new jobs. In Pennsylvania, 500,000 new jobs. In Michigan, 350,000 new jobs.

Donald Trump’s record of broken promises is clear across the country:

Trump’s Broken Promise to Wisconsin: Trump promised $10 billion in investment and up to 13,000 new jobs at the Foxconn plant, calling it the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and the embodiment of the MAGA agenda.

Trump’s Broken Promise to Michigan: Trump promised Michigan “won’t lose one plant” and a “complete revitalization of the Michigan manufacturing sector.”

Trump’s Broken Promise to Pennsylvania: Trump promised, “your jobs will come back under a Trump administration” and “we’re going to bring back our manufacturing.”

Trump’s Broken Promise to Ohio: Trump promised “those jobs have left Ohio. They’re all coming back” and “jobs will return … and new factories will come rushing onto our shores.” Trump boasted he would save the Lordstown plant.

Trump’s Broken Promise to Indiana: Trump promised to keep the Carrier plant and jobs in the U.S.

Biden-Harris 2024 spokesperson James Singer released the following statement:

“The choice in this election is clear: Joe Biden is delivering jobs, while all Donald Trump delivered as president was broken promises.

“Joe Biden knows a job is a lot more than a paycheck – it’s about dignity. It’s why he’s spent every day working to bring our country back from the economic abyss Donald Trump left us in.

“Americans will go to the polls this November knowing that Joe Biden is a man of his word who has delivered 15 million new jobs, and that Donald Trump is a fraud who over-promised, under-delivered, and sold America out.”

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