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What Do Voters Want to Hear From GOP Candidates at Tonight’s Debate?

More than 50 percent of Republican voters think the nation is in danger of collapse.

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN — Tonight’s debate, hosted by Fox News, marks the real start of the GOP primary, according to former RNC Chair Michael Steele. It’s the moment when most Republicans across the country begin to tune in to hear directly from the candidates in a live forum.

But something both Republicans and Democrats agree on, according to a newly released poll, is that America is headed toward failure. Overall, 37 percent of registered voters said the problems our country faces are so great, the nation is in danger of collapse. That outlook among Republicans or independents who lean Republican is 56 percent.

So what are everyday Americans hoping to hear from Republican candidates at tonight’s debate?

DeSantis and the other candidates must separate themselves from former President Donald Trump to win the nomination. While Trump will be absent from the debate, GOP voters know him better than any other candidate and may view everything the candidates say through the lens of Trump’s previous administration – good or bad.


The economy continues to poll as a top issue for GOP voters, and conservatives will be looking for solid proposals to address inflation and out-of-control government spending. Simply criticizing Joe Biden and arguing about who’s to blame will likely turn off voters who are deeply concerned over the current direction of the nation.


Crime and immigration are on the minds of GOP voters who are concerned that the crisis at the southern border has eroded our national sovereignty. But candidates need to show voters a clear path to solving those problems without adding to a federal bureaucracy that most Republicans want to see reduced.


Culture war issues have fired up the GOP base, unifying families and politicians over the Left’s constant barrage of “woke” messaging from brands like Target and Bud Light. But the issue has gone deeper than consumer brands. Has this far-Left agenda – now targeting American children – become intolerable by the GOP base?


Foreign policy – just as significant to GOP voters – could divide the candidates tonight. Former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott have shared traditional pro-Ukraine, anti-Russia views. But Governor Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy have said that the war in Ukraine is not vital to U.S. national interests.


It’s unclear if the topic of abortion will be on tonight’s line of questions, but it’s an issue that Republican candidates are not completely unified on. Trump has been criticized for softening on the issue and Ron DeSantis, who recently signed a heartbeat protection bill in Florida, says he’s pro-life but is unsure if national restrictions could make it through Congress.


Former President Donald Trump

Trump will not be at tonight’s debate. The former president refused to sign a pledge to support the eventual nominee.

“Why would I sign a pledge if there are people on there that I wouldn’t have?” Trump said. “I wouldn’t have certain people as somebody that I endorse.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

“Everybody should debate. Everybody has a responsibility to earn people’s votes. Nobody is entitled to anything in this world, less of all the Republican nomination for president,” DeSantis said. “I’m going to be there.”

“We need to send Biden back to his basement in Delaware and reverse the country’s decline, and I’m the guy that can do it,” DeSantis added.

WATCH: Governor Ron DeSantis sat down with The Florida Standard’s Editor in Chief, Will Witt, for an exclusive interview.

Senator Tim Scott

“I have to make sure that the American people knows that I am the candidate that has the power of persuasion,” Scott said. “And when there is a contrast opportunity on the stage, you should present yourself as the only competent, qualified asset out there.”

Vivek Ramaswamy

“This will be my first time ever, so I’m looking forward to certainly taking my time and the first debate is not the end, it’s just the beginning and so it will be something of a warmup for me,” Ramaswamy said.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley

“I think they’re ready for a woman who’s going to go in there and get it done. We’re results oriented,” Haley said. “We know how to bounce multiple balls at the same time, and we don’t play the nonsense drama. I think it’s time.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence

“One of my goals in that debate is for the American people, Republican primary voters, to get to know me in a little bit broader context and demonstrate the kind of leadership that we bring to this, which I think is what the moment calls for,” Pence said.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

“[I]f he’s [Trump] not there, it just means two things. One, he’s afraid to be on the same debate stage and defend his record. And two, you know, this is a guy who, by not showing up, just gives me more time, Christie said. “So it’s OK. Either way, I win.”