SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — To kick off the 2024 presidential race, GOP candidates took to the podium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Wednesday night to share with the American people why they should be the next president.

This was an exciting debate full of politicians going over time and name-calling on the topics of:

  • Economy
  • Climate Change
  • China and Russia relations
  • Ukraine
  • Abortion
  • Education

Donald Trump chose not to participate in the debate but he was a major topic as he is the front-runner in the race.

FILE – Republican presidential candidates, from left, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum stand at their podiums during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by FOX News Channel Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

An America in decline

Americans today are struggling with the current cost of living alongside static wages, with many losing confidence in the economy. Only 19% of Americans have a positive view of the economy, according to a Pew Research study in April.

“Our country is in decline, this decline isn’t inevitable it’s a choice,” said Flordia Gov. Ron Desantis. “It starts with understanding we must reverse Bidenomics so middle-class families have a chance to succeed again.”

Bidenomics is an initiative by President Joe Biden to strengthen the economy by lowering unemployment, investing in clean energy and rebuilding American infrastructure.

In the debate, the term Bidenomics was used by the candidates to explain why the economy has seen a decline due to the president’s spending habits.

So is there a decline in the American economy?

As of June 2023, personal income increased by $69.5 billion and customer spending to $100.4 billion according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. American debt has increased from 2022 $16.17 trillion to $16.75 trillion as of the first quarter.

Climate change

The majority of candidates at the debate disagree with lowering America’s carbon emissions, with some not believing in climate change at all.

“The climate change agenda is a hoax,” said Vivek Ramaswamy an American billionaire running for president.

Although 61% of Americans believe that climate change is affecting their community, many candidates avoided the topic altogether.

“Unlock American energy, drill, frack, burn coal, embrace nuclear put people back to work by no longer paying them to stay at home,” said Ramaswamy.

China, Russia and Ukraine

62% of Americans believe that an alliance between China and Russia is a very serious problem for the country, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

The candidates brought up China and the U.S. in every topic, comparing how China has a larger military population, does better in education and has an economy growing exponentially.

Candidates at the debate echoed the message of being strong against China while ensuring that an alliance with Russia does not strengthen.

Candidates like DeSantis and Ramaswamy believe that European allies should “step up” to aid Ukraine and move funding towards defending the border.

Others like former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley disagreed.

“This is the Vladamir Putin who Donald Trump called brilliant and a genius and if we don’t stand up against this type of autocratic killing in the world we will be next,” said Christie.

Both highlighted that Ukraine is the last line of defense from Russia and the Western world.

“This guy is a murderer and you are choosing a murderer over a pro-American country,” said Haley.

Federal ban on abortion?

Most candidates subscribe to pro-life values like former Vice President Mike Pence, who wants a 15-week minimum ban on abortions.

“It’s not a state’s rights issue, it’s a moral issue,” said Pence.

Haley noted that she is pro-life but knows that the agenda to ban abortion federally is not feasible due to the lack of Republican seats in the Senate.

“We need to stop demonizing this issue,” said Haley.

Eliminate teacher unions and the Department of Education

To allow local schools and municipal education departments to make their own decisions, many of the GOP candidates support this initiative.

To no one’s surprise, DeSantis vowed to shut down the education department, the IRS and the Energy Department if he was elected.

“We need education in this country, not indoctrination in this country,” said Desantis.

Governor of North Dakota Doug Burgum and Ramaswamy agreed.

“Let’s shut down the head of the snake, the Department of Education,” said Ramaswamy.

Others like Hayley called for more transparency in schools and state freedom across the country.

The next GOP debate will be on Sept. 27 in Simi Valley, California.