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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. |


Congressman Maxwell Frost to join President Joe Biden on Office of Gun Violence Prevention Announcement



WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Congressman Maxwell Alejandro Frost (FL-10) released a statement following President Biden’s announcement that the Administration will heed Frost’s and the gun violence prevention movement’s calls for the creation of a federal Office of Gun Violence Prevention to advance common sense policy and coordinate prevention efforts across federal agencies.

The move by President Biden comes months after Frost, the former Organizing Director at March for Our Lives, joined forces with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and gun violence prevention organizations to introduce a bill that would create the first ever federal office to establish a coordinated response to the gun violence epidemic that is claiming over 100 lives a day. Rep. Frost will join President Biden for the official announcement Friday afternoon at the White House.

“As a life-long organizer and survivor of gun violence, I introduced legislation to create the first-ever Office of Gun Violence Prevention back in March because I refuse to ever accept that the senseless gun violence destroying our communities is normal,” said Rep. Maxwell Frost. “Today I am thrilled that President Biden has answered our call. This office is the first critical step to tackling gun violence head on and ensuring that the federal government can lead in the fight to live in a world where we never lose another life because of a gun. This is a win for the gun violence prevention movement and a win for the American public.”

“The newly announced Office of Gun Violence Prevention is a serious and bold step in the right direction for public safety. Local governments know all-too-well the incredible toll of gun violence in our communities. This federal initiative will provide invaluable data, analysis, insight, and support to local law enforcement and community leaders seeking real solutions to the national epidemic of gun violence. This breakthrough is the direct result of Congressman Maxwell Frost’s tireless advocacy. I want to thank him and President Biden for their commitment to keeping our communities safe,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

“This office is going to have a real, tangible impact on marshaling the resources of the federal government,” said David Hogg, co-founder of March For Our Lives. “But there’s also tremendous symbolic power here. March For Our Lives has been calling for this office since 2019, and it was one of our key campaigns that we worked on in 2021 back when Rep. Maxwell Frost was our Organizing Director. From standing in the cold outside the White House to demand this office, to Rep. Frost’s first bill calling for its creation, and now to the President acknowledging our demands and formally establishing an office of gun violence prevention, this victory shows the power of young people flexing our organizing and political muscle. With our power, we are going to end gun violence.”

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Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Implementation of Florida’s Prescription Drug Reform Act



File - Governor Ron DeSantis. Photo by J Willie David, III / Florida National News
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Ron DeSantis and members of the Florida Cabinet approved rules to implement several provisions of the Prescription Drug Reform Act (SB 1550). The rules approved today increase accountability among pharmaceutical middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). As signed by the Governor earlier this year, SB 1550 institutes the most comprehensive reforms to Florida’s prescription drug market in state history. Additional information on the bill can be found here.
“We are committed to making Florida’s prescription drug market the most transparent and accountable in the nation,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “For too long, PBMs and Big Pharma have made extraordinary windfalls by operating behind closed doors deciding which prescriptions are covered, where they can be purchased, and how much they cost. These rules will continue our efforts to lower prescription costs and make corporations responsible to the patients they serve.”
Rules approved by the Governor and Cabinet today include all application forms for PBMs seeking to operate in Florida after December 31, 2023. Any PBM that attempts to continue operating in Florida on or after January 1, 2024, that has not been approved as an insurance administrator will be subject to fines totaling $10,000 per violation per day.
Following today’s Cabinet meeting, the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) formally sent correspondence to all PBMs currently operating in Florida reinforcing the updated requirements of Florida Law. OIR also issued additional information to all stakeholders outlining the method by which PBMs must report appeals from network pharmacies and pharmacists and the forms for health plans and payors to annually attest compliance with Florida law. More information on these announcements can be found here.
This summer, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation initiated rulemaking to implement additional provisions of SB 1550 to require Big Pharma to provide notice when increasing the cost of prescription drugs. Prescription drug manufacturers must disclose all price hikes that result in a 15% increase within a calendar year or 30% increase within a three-year period both on the effective date of the increase and through an annual cumulative report citing the contributing factor for the reported increases.

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Florida Judge Finally Rejects Governor DeSantis’ Congressional Map as Unconstitutional After House Floor Sit-In



State Reps. Travaris McCurdy (D-Orlando), and Angie Nixon (D-Jacksonville) sit on the Florida Seal in protest as debate stops on Senate Bill 2-C: Establishing the Congressional Districts of the State in the House of Representatives Thursday, April 21, 2022 at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. State Rep. Daisy Morales (D-Orlando), joins the protest, holding a sign. The session was halted on the protest. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)
State Reps. Travaris McCurdy (D-Orlando), and Angie Nixon (D-Jacksonville) sit on the Florida Seal in protest as debate stops on Senate Bill 2-C: Establishing the Congressional Districts of the State in the House of Representatives Thursday, April 21, 2022 at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. State Rep. Daisy Morales (D-Orlando), joins the protest, holding a sign. The session was halted on the protest. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FNN) — On Saturday, a Florida judge ruled that a congressional map put forward by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) was unconstitutional and ordered the state legislature to redraw the boundaries.

Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh found that the redrawn districts authorized by DeSantis in northern Florida violated the state constitution’s Fair Districts Amendments by “dismantling a congressional district that enabled Black voters to elect their candidates of choice under the previous plan.” See florida-ruling.

The district, which stretches across much of Florida’s northern border with Georgia, was previously held by Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat who lost in the 2022 midterm election after the redistricting process.

In the previous district, 46.5 percent of the voting age population was Black. Under the new map, the four districts in the area are 23.1 percent, 15.9 percent, 31.7 percent and 12.8 percent Black.

The map approved in the 2020 redistricting cycle was submitted to the Florida legislature by DeSantis’s office, after the governor rejected two earlier maps passed by state lawmakers.

Lawyers for both the Florida House and Senate conceded in court that the map did not satisfy the non-diminishment requirement in the state constitution. Only the Florida secretary of state argued otherwise, according to Saturday’s ruling.

In 2022, NBC News also covered the sit-in, reporting that Florida Democratic state lawmakers shut down the state’s special legislative session for more than an hour with a pray-in and a sit-in at the center of the House floor chamber.

The surprising act of defiance began a little before noon, when Rep. Yvonne Hinson went over her allotted speaking time and had her microphone cut off, prompting other Black legislators to stand without being recognized and gather in the center of the chamber, showing off shirts that read “Stop the Black Attack” and sitting on the state seal on the blue carpet.

In all, four Black legislators and a Hispanic representative — Hinson, Angie Nixon, Travaris McCurdy, Felicia Robinson and Daisy Morales — occupied the center of the chamber as bewildered Republicans looked on.

Rep. Daisy Morales, an Orlando Democrat, held a sign that read: “Legislators serve the people. Not your party.”

The decision marks the latest blow to new congressional maps in Southern states.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Republican-drawn map in Alabama, ruling that it violated the Voting Rights Act. In a 5-4 decision, the court affirmed a lower ruling that ordered the GOP-led state to create a new map with an additional majority-Black district.

This is an ongoing story. Bookmark and follow Florida National News for more updates.

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