Post-GOP Debate Poll Shows Biggest Winners, Losers After Bloodbath in Wisconsin


It’s been said politics is a numbers game. Many of the numbers being gamed out by politicians and the media are generated from polling.

Data collected from a range of individual opinions gets codified into figures that can be compared and analyzed. When done honestly, polls theoretically can measure the evolving standings of issues and candidates with the public.

Polling done after the first 2024 Republican primary debate on Wednesday in Milwaukee showed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who is second to former President Donald Trump in most GOP surveys — had a good night.

On Thursday, polling site FiveThirtyEight reported on “Who Won the First Republican Debate,” sharing the results of surveys it conducted jointly with the Washington Post and Ipsos.

The results came from 775 likely Republican primary voters who watched at least some of the debate. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points.

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According to the poll, DeSantis came in first with the best performance of the night at 29 percent.

Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy was a close second at 26 percent.

Another set of FiveThirtyEight’s analytics compared favorable versus unfavorable ratings before and after the debate.

Even though many thought he Ramaswamy performed well, his net favorability ratings plummeted about 9 points after the event, suggesting he is a polarizing candidate.

Meanwhile, DeSantis’s net favorability jumped 6 points. He topped all GOP candidates in the poll with 72.4 percent approval of those surveyed.

Trump — who skipped the debate — saw his net favorability fall about 7 points after the event. His approval stood at 59.8 percent on Thursday.

Another beneficiary of the debate was Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador.

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Haley was rated the best performance by 15 percent of the respondents. Her net favorability increased by 13 percent.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also made some gains Wednesday night, despite being loudly booed during the debate when he talked about Trump. His sky-high disapproval rating of 61.3 percent dropped slightly to 59.9 percent, but his favorable rating rose from 23.4 to 35.2 percent — a net gain of 13 points.

Still, Christie was rated as having the worst performance by 22 percent of the respondents, and only 4 percent of those polled thought the former governor won the debate. It will be hard for Christie to remain a viable option with numbers like those.

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Another contender in trouble is former Vice President Mike Pence. Only 7 percent thought he won the debate. Even though he posted a net favorability gain of 7 points after the event, Pence remained underwater with primary voters, with 42.6 favorable to 53.9 unfavorable ratings.

Perhaps the biggest loser was former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Hutchinson was rated the worst debate performance by 14 percent of the respondents, and his unfavorable rating climbed from 16.8 to 33.7 percent.

Trump cited his big lead in the polls as the reason he skipped the debate.

As a crafty old media veteran, the former president chose to counterprogram the Fox News event by sitting for an interview with former Fox host Tucker Carlson that aired on social media just before the debate.

Even though Trump didn’t show up in Milwaukee, the polling included questions about him.

It just goes to show that all the other candidates will continue to be measured in relation to him.

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Richard Bledsoe is an author and internationally exhibiting artist. His writings on culture and politics have been featured in The Masculinist, Instapundit and American Thinker. You can view more of his work at
Richard Bledsoe is an author and internationally exhibiting artist. His writings on culture and politics have been featured in The Masculinist, Instapundit and American Thinker. You can view more of his work at