LARRY KUDLOW: Trump has a very strong hold on the Republican party

Kudlow reacts to the GOP primary debate

So, let's talk about last night's debate. I don't think there's any constructive point in criticizing the Republican candidates. They're all smart people. They're all conservatives and apart from a few head-to-head explosions that we all could've done without, there was far more agreement on issues than disagreement: energy, inflation, over-regulation, wokeness and China warnings. The biggest division was probably over Ukraine. 

You can be a little unfair and say there were no magical moment zinger lines, but you know, zingers are hard to come by. Now, here's one memorable line from Ronald Reagan just to remind everyone of what a truly memorable line sounds like. Take a listen: 

Carter: "Governor Reagan again is typically against such a proposal."  

Reagan: "There you go again"  

Crowd laughs. 

There you go. I'll tell ya, that one's still playing 40 years later. At different points in the debate, I think each of the candidates had their moments. I know the pundits are scrambling around to pick winners and losers, but honestly, I don't think anybody totally stood out. I don't think there were any real breakout breakouts. There may be some minor polling hiccups, but frankly, the big picture doesn't change. 


Former President Donald Trump is still the overwhelming favorite to win the GOP nomination. He's the prohibitive favorite. I just don't think the debate last night, like the one before it, changes Mr. Trump's front-running status. 

Now, I was disappointed that there was no one who struck me as a commander-in-chief of the economy, or for that matter a commander-in-chief for national security. I just didn't see that.  Nor did I see any clear economic growth and prosperity messaging. No one really blasted the big government socialism of Bidenomics. Nor did anyone really make a clear case for a return to free enterprise capitalism as an engine of growth and prosperity. No one really called for an across-the-board slashing of tax rates to grow the economy at 4%, 5%, or 6%. I was disappointed. 

I don't think anyone really convinced voters that the GOP will be the stewards of future growth and prosperity. Now, again, there were snippets of this here and there over the two hours, you could see each candidate bucking in, but no comprehensive plan. No oomph!  

There was no real medium rare steak that was so good I wanted to take home some slices and share it with my little doggy. You didn't wake up this morning with a single highlight in your brain. Now, I did have a couple of favorites to share. For example, Senator Tim Scott bravely attacked the great society welfare spending that he believes was so damaging to African American families. Take a listen: 

Scott: "Here's the challenge, though, Black families survived slavery. We survived poll taxes and literacy tests. We survived discrimination being woven into the laws of our country. What was hard to survive was Johnson's Great Society, where they decided to put in money or decided to take the Black father out of the household to get a check in the mail and you can now measure that in unemployment and crime and devastation. If you want to restore hope, you've got to restore the family, restore capitalism and put Americans back at work together as one American family." 

Wow. You know that is heavy stuff. I happen to totally agree with Senator Scott and I think the data supports his view regarding the economic, family and societal damage of welfare spending. So, that was a great moment. No one in the liberal media is probably going to talk about it. So, kudos to Tim Scott and then the closest I saw to a comprehensive economic growth plan came from Vivek Ramaswamy. Take a listen: 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis looks on as former Governor from South Carolina and UN ambassador Nikki Haley shakes hands with North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum following the second Republican presidential primary debate at the Ronald Reagan President (Robyn Beck / Getty Images)


Vivek: "What we need is to deliver economic growth in this country. Unlock American energy. Drill. Frack. Burn coal. Embrace nuclear energy. Put people back to work by no longer paying them more money to stay home. Stabilize the U.S. dollar itself and rescind the majority of those unconstitutional federal regulations that are hampering our economy." 

Alright that was well said and well-packaged in one brief moment. Good for Vivek. I don't think the others disagree with him, but he put it together in a strong fashion. Then again, debates don't decide primaries. Polls don't decide primaries. Only votes decide primaries and nobody has voted yet. So, we're still early in the nominating process, but frankly, I don't think last night's debate changed the fact that Former President Trump has a very stronghold on the Republican party. That's my Riff.  

This article is adapted from Larry Kudlow’s opening commentary on the September 28, 2023, edition of "Kudlow."