GOP Debate: No Candidate Raises Hand When Asked If They Believe Human-Caused Climate Change Is Real — Update

UPDATE: Debate moderator Martha MacCallum tried out the first raised hand question of the evening, asking the candidates, “Do you believe human behavior is causing climate change? Raise your hand if you do.”

None did, and Vivek Ramaswamy said, “The climate change agenda is a hoax.” That drew boos from the audience.

PREVIOUSLY: The first Republican presidential debate opened with rivals skirmishing a bit with each other rather than the front-runner who was not at the event, Donald Trump.

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Instead, Vivek Ramaswamy, the political newcomer who has been rising in the polls, became the target.

“Now is not the time for on-the-job training,” said former Vice President Mike Pence.

Ramaswamy came out of the gate trying to contrast himself to others in the field, saying at one point, “I’m the only person on this stage who is not bought and paid for.”

That set off former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie joined in the criticism.

“I’ve had enough already tonight of a guy who sounds like ChatGPT standing up here,” Christie said.

He compared Ramaswamy to Barack Obama, i.e. another skinny guy with an unusual name. “I feel like we are dealing with the same type of amateur standing on stage tonight.”

The first debate of the 2024 cycle featured eight candidates on the stage: Pence, Christie, Ramaswamy, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

The debate format featured no opening remarks, but the first question, having to do with the themes of the breakout song Rich Men North of Richmond, essentially was an invitation to do so.

Ramaswamy seized on the opportunity to stand out from the pack as he introduced himself to a national audience, “Now that everybody’s got their memorized slogans out of the way, we can actually have a real discussion.” Then Pence interjected, “Is that one of yours?”

There were few references to Trump’s absence. He is trying to steal the thunder from the debate by doing a two-hour, pre-taped sitdown interview with former Fox host Tucker Carlson on Twitter/X. As he did during the 2016 primary, Trump has attacked the network for its coverage. But the fact that he sat down with its former primetime star, let go in April, is a blatant effort to upstage Fox News on a night when it is expecting a significant viewer uptick.

The former president’s complaints continued through Wednesday evening, as he posted on his social media platform, Truth Social, about Fox News’s pre-debate commentary. He wrote, “I AM LEADING BIDEN IN ALMOST ALL POLLS! LEADING REPUBLICANS BY 50 POINTS. FOX NEWS REFUSES TO POST OR DISCUSS. BRIT HUME, WORKING WITH RINO BRET BAIER, IS DELUSIONAL!!!”

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s campaign went up with their first national ad of the 2024 cycle, as it purchased time during Fox News’s pre-debate coverage.

Trump’s refusal to participate in the debate made the event, held at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, an unusual battle by his rivals to emerge as a serious rival. But it also was expected to put on display how they are handling the former president’s multiple indictments, something that has created an unprecedented situation in American history. Some candidates, like DeSantis, have attacked the justice system rather than Trump, and a leaked memo from his SuperPAC indicated a desire by its advisers for him to go after Ramaswamy, gaining ground in the polls, instead.

With Trump’s absence, Fox News host Sean Hannity said that it would instead give other candidates an opportunity. “For all the talk about Donald Trump not coming, I think these guys, they should be glad he’s not coming because he sucks out about 98.5% of all the oxygen in the room.”

To qualify for the debate stage, candidates must have had a minimum of 40,000 donors and to have reached at least 1% in three national polls or a combination of two national and two early-state polls. Candidates also needed to sign a pledge vowing to support the eventual nominee. Trump has not signed the pledge and did not qualify, but he had already said that he would skip the event.

Candidates who didn’t make the stage tried to make their presence known in other ways. Radio host Larry Elder, appearing outside the arena, said he planned to file a Federal Election Committee complaint against the Republican National Committee, while businessman Perry Johnson, another contender, said he filed one against the RNC and Fox News for “a collusive effort to cherry pick participants.” Rep, Will Hurd (R-TX) appeared on CNN earlier in the day.

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