Aug 24, 2023 - Politics & Policy

How GOP candidates treated Biden vs. Trump at the first debate

Candidate attacks on Biden and Trump in first 2024 GOP presidential debate
Data: Axios research; Chart: Tory Lysik and Simran Parwani/Axios

Last night's GOP presidential debate featured multiple jabs from the eight White House hopefuls toward President Biden and former President Trump.

The big picture: The eight Republican presidential candidates took 21 shots at Biden compared to seven at Trump, who skipped the debate in Wisconsin for a pre-recorded interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Out of the eight debaters, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took the most jabs toward Biden.

  • Burgum attributed inflation in the U.S. to the president during his closing debate remarks, saying: "I understand why America's hurting Biden's inflation is choking us."
  • DeSantis was quick to criticize Biden's response to Maui's devastating wildfires, saying: "Biden was on the beach while those people were suffering. He was asked about it, and he said 'no comment.' Are you kidding me?"
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley attacked Biden three times each.

Between the lines: Trump, who will surrender to authorities Thursday at Georgia's Fulton County Jail over his fourth criminal indictment, received far less criticism during the debate compared to Biden.

  • Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Haley made it a point to criticize Trump more than once.
  • Christie, a vocal critic of Trump, did not raise his hand when candidates were asked by the debate moderators if they would support the former president as the GOP nominee, regardless of his legal woes, which include 91 federal and state charges.
  • Hutchinson also chose not to raise his hand.

Go deeper: In Trump's absence, Ramaswamy drives the GOP debate

Go deeper