Jeramey Jannene

No Trump, But Republican Debate Fills Hotels, Creates Buzz

And draws protesters. Wednesday's event is first debate of 2024 GOP presidential race.

By - Aug 21st, 2023 09:00 pm
Fiserv Forum with branding for the 2023 GOP presidential debate. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Fiserv Forum with branding for the 2023 GOP presidential debate. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Call it RNC Lite.

Milwaukee is getting a taste of what the 2024 Republican National Convention could bring to town.

Fox News will host a two-hour presidential debate Wednesday evening from Fiserv Forum. There are road closures, security fences, protests and full hotel rooms. There are also larger-than-life images of debate moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum on the front of the arena.

The debate stage is expected to include former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Missing from the affair, at least in terms of physical presence, will be former President Donald Trump. The former president, subject of several criminal indictments for his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election, is opting out of the debate while he maintains a large polling lead. “The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had,” said Trump on his Truth Social social network on Sunday. He also said he would not participate in any of the debates, without specifying if that included those against the future Democratic candidate.

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel previously said it would be “a mistake” for Trump to skip the August debate.

Protesters, part of The Coalition to March on the RNC 2024, are planning to protest the event. “The Republican Party and their presidential hopefuls currently represent the primary enemies of the working class and oppressed peoples all over this country and, truly, around the world,” said Omar Flores, co-chair of the coalition, in a statement.

Young America’s Foundation, now led by former Governor Scott Walker, is hosting a plaza block party, through which debate attendees will enter before entering Fiserv Forum.

To qualify for the debate, candidates must have at least 40,000 unique donors, with at least 200 unique donors from 20 states, and must have reached at least 1% in three national polls or 1% in two national polls and 1% in two polls from separate early voting states. Candidates must also sign a pledge to support the eventual nominee.

The eight candidates on the stage will pale in comparison to the last time Milwaukee hosted a Republican presidential debate. In November 2015, the city hosted 12 candidates that required the contest be split into “prime time” and “undercard” debates. Held at the Miller High Life Theatre, it was the fourth debate of the 2016 presidential cycle.

Approximately 7,000 people are expected to attend Wednesday’s event, far from a sellout at Fiserv Forum. Tickets are not for sale to the general public and are being allocated through the national party and the candidates. Many party officials are expected to be in attendance, in part because a series of Republican National Committee meetings are taking place alongside the debate.

While the debate airs, the former president is expected to appear in a pre-recorded interview with Tucker Carlson. The former Fox News host left the network just days after its parent company settled a defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems for $787 million. But there will be one Trump at the Milwaukee event. Donald Trump, Jr. will serve as a media surrogate. The former president’s son will be available to give interviews on behalf of his father’s campaign.

The Republican  convention committee, MKE 2024 Host Committee, is hosting a vendor fair as part of the debate, attempting to play matchmaker between future convention event hosts and Milwaukee businesses.

Moms for Liberty, a group designated as an extremist anti-government organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center, canceled its planned event before the debate. The group is instead planning to host a discussion with Senator Ron Johnson at the Pfister Hotel. The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association and other groups had repeatedly announced plans to protest venues that hosted the group.

A large fence with a black cover obscures visibility into the Deer District plaza in front of Fiserv Forum. Fox News is expected to broadcast from the area all day Wednesday. The space is still visible from many of the Deer District businesses that face the plaza.

The Milwaukee Police Department has issued an advisory about several road closures for the Westown neighborhood that will be in effect starting at 3 p.m.

President and Democrat Joe Biden, who visited Milwaukee last week, won Wisconsin by 21,000 votes in 2020.

The debate starts at 8 p.m.

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Categories: Politics

2 thoughts on “No Trump, But Republican Debate Fills Hotels, Creates Buzz”

  1. ZeeManMke says:

    What is it to gain the world and lose your soul?

    Just the other day Chris Christie said protestors
    against police abuse should be locked up. I could
    list all the outrageous things these people believe in,
    but you already know them. Remember that no other
    city in the country wanted them. Will gaining a few bucks
    make up for selling out to these people?

    Milwaukee is about to find out.

  2. julia o'connor says:

    Hope the hotels demanded full payment in advance.

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