Up for Debate: Where Trump, DeSantis, and rest of Republican 2024 field stand on key issues

Gun Rights

The first Republican presidential debate is fast approaching on Aug. 23, when candidates will hope to close the gap on former President Donald Trump and separate from the rest of the pack. In this series, Up For Debate, the Washington Examiner will look at a key issue or policy every day up until debate day and where key candidates stand. Below is a list of each breakdown published by the Washington Examiner on driving issues for the field — including spending and debt, abortion, the economy, impeaching Joe Biden, the border, and energy and climate change.

Spending and debt

Many of the Republican candidates for president have hit out at President Joe Biden for adding to the national debt since being sworn into office. Notably, Biden and Democrats oversaw a rash of spending early on in the form of pandemic relief and continued that with other legislation.

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It is bound to be a big topic at the first debate and throughout the campaign.

Impeachment of Joe Biden

Republican members of the House Oversight Committee suggested that a Biden impeachment inquiry was necessary after Devon Archer, a business associate of Hunter Biden, testified behind closed doors with the committee. But the movement has divided more centrist Republicans who represent districts that Biden won and would face tough reelection bids in 2024 if impeachment charges were brought up, threatening the Republican House majority.

Some of the Republicans running for president have not hesitated, however, to support the more conservative wing of their party in moving to impeach Biden.

Reforming the FBI and DOJ

Republican 2024 candidates have almost unilaterally used the term “weaponized” to describe the Department of Justice during this election cycle. Some have elevated concerns that the DOJ and FBI labeled parents of students “domestic terrorists,” discriminated against certain traditional Catholics, or coordinated with social media companies to censor protected speech.

But more than any other issue, all of the candidates have been forced, on multiple occasions, to take a position on the DOJ’s decision to prosecute the primary front-runner, former President Donald Trump.


Abortion has already splintered the GOP primary field, giving candidates a talking point when it comes to distinguishing themselves in the first Republican debate of the 2024 presidential election cycle.

In many issues, analysts see the field as divided into Trump and non-Trump categories, but candidates have positioned themselves on the abortion debate on a scale of whether there is a federal role in it or whether it is a state issue.

Energy and climate change

Energy and climate priorities will be a key focus in the 2024 Republican primary race as the candidates look to position themselves on oil and gas production, energy security, and sustainability topics such as environmental, social, and governance, or ESG, spending.

While the candidates espouse a wide range of views on these topics, each hopes to present himself or herself as a clear alternative to President Joe Biden, whose policies, they argue, are crippling economic growth, pushing up consumer prices, and threatening U.S. competitiveness while driving an outsize reliance on China for manufacturing and production.

Foreign policy

Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have demonstrated their belief that geopolitical power is up for grabs. The so-called “new world order” that George H.W. Bush inaugurated after the Cold War — in which peerless American power would ensure “the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle” — has given way to Russia’s war in Ukraine, China‘s threats toward Taiwan and assertion of sovereignty over vast swathes of international shipping lanes, and simmering risk of nuclear proliferation among rogue states.

Republican presidential candidates must navigate the paradoxes of a GOP voter base convinced that the U.S. needs to project more strength, take on fewer commitments, but uphold traditional alliances and friendships, especially with Israel. Former President Donald Trump threaded that political needle in 2016, but his iconoclastic approach has left room for rivals to appeal to more traditional GOP voters.

“The ‘peace through strength’ crowd … the shining city on a hill [crowd], that is up for grabs,” a GOP campaign data strategist said. “It won’t get you the nomination, but it might get you ten to 12%, which is a substantial number.”

Immigration and the border

Homeland security and the global migration phenomenon will be leading topics during the first debate of the GOP primary season.

Between President Joe Biden’s first full month in office in February 2021 and June 2023, federal law enforcement at the nation’s land, air, and sea borders have encountered 6,666,409 people who attempted to enter the United States unlawfully, according to public data on Customs and Border Protection’s website. Exactly 5,094,425 of the larger number were apprehended by Border Patrol agents after they crossed illegally between ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Department of Homeland Security also recorded an additional 1.5 million noncitizens who evaded arrest, or “gotaways.” Both numbers blow past any other period in the Border Patrol’s century existence and have drawn the attention of Republican voters.

The Second Amendment

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Republicans have vehemently called out the Biden administration‘s firearms policies since he took office, a subject likely to garner steam from GOP candidates preparing for their debate stage debut. Numerous GOP candidates have criticized President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party for being “gun control extremists,” as Biden touted using executive orders 21 times to implement gun reform by July of last year.

While some Republican lawmakers have embraced bipartisan gun restrictions in recent years, groups like the NRA have continued their lobby against such steps, coinciding with now 26 states in the union that allow so-called “constitutional carry,” or carrying without a permit, in addition to a sweeping ruling protecting Second Amendment rights at the Supreme Court in 2022.


Coming Aug.15


Coming Aug. 16

Big Tech

Coming Aug. 17

LGBT issues

Coming Aug. 18

Defense and the military

Coming Aug. 19


Coming Aug. 20

Artificial Intelligence

Coming Aug. 21

Election integrity

Coming Aug. 22


Size of the federal government

Coming Aug. 23

Original Location: Up for Debate: Where Trump, DeSantis, and rest of Republican 2024 field stand on key issues

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