A group of young conservatives at the University of Southern California are ready for a new GOP future but agree that former President Donald Trump is the strongest candidate going into 2024.
Seven Republican candidates battled at the recent second presidential debate to prove if they can be an alternative to front-runner Trump, who is polling ahead with 60% of Republican primary support, according to Fox News polling.
“Vivek Ramaswamy,” said four students when asked who won the debate, with only one student saying they felt Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., was last Wednesday night’s winner.
The presidential candidates railed against Trump for skipping the second debate, with DeSantis saying he was “missing in action” and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie calling him “Donald Duck” – and members of the USC College Republicans chapter agreed that Trump “needed to be there.”
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“I think for the people on the fence, he needed to be there. I would have wished he was there,” said senior Angelica Baker, an international relations major.
“I think that’s something voters needed to see, so I hope he chooses to participate in the next one,” another student told Fox.
“He’s leading by insurmountable odds,” USC senior Daniel Parker, who is also an international relations major, said of Trump. “And there’s no benefit to him to actually step on the stage.”
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Chris Christie and former Vice President Mike Pence were named as having the worst performance in the GOP debate by nearly all the students, who said they are “running for a position that nobody wants them to run for.”
“For the worst night probably, Christie,” Parker said. “He’s trying to play to the Never Trumpers, and the Never Trumpers are just not big enough to get him any type of traction.”
“Nobody really looked like a leader up there. A lot of people look like they were squabbling,” Parker added.
The overall mood of the second debate was that the Republican candidates performed better than the first showdown but are still lagging behind Trump.
One student said it “just reminded me of me and my siblings” and that this scenario of arguing back and forth is “not something that you want in the Oval Office.”
“I feel like there is improvement in almost every candidate in terms of just how they presented themselves. I think DeSantis had a noticeably better stance – I guess you could say just better projecting his views and his opinions,” another student said.
“You’ve just got to prove that you can be more viable than Trump, and I just don’t see that yet,” said Lorenzo Aguirre, a business and real estate finance major.
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