Expectations for tonight's GOP carnival ride

Plus, a suspicious plane crash in Russia and policing turmoil in Minneapolis.


Today, Russian media reported that Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Russian mercenary company Wagner Group, has been killed in a plane crash. At one point, Prigozhin acted as a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and provided crucial military support for his invasion of Ukraine.

However, in a video released exactly two months ago, Prigozhin began speaking out against Putin’s so-called “special military operation" after he claimed the Russian military had launched a missile strike on his mercenary forces.

In the same video, the man once known as “Putin’s chef” said that Russia’s defense minister was "trying to deceive society and the president and tell us how there was crazy aggression from Ukraine and that they were planning to attack us with the whole of NATO."

He also publicly refuted Putin’s assertion that the goal of the Russian invasion was to "demilitarize or denazify Ukraine."

A Wagner Group channel on the messaging app Telegram speculated that the Russian state shot down Prigozhin’s plane. The other nine passengers on Prigozhin's plane were also killed.

Three complaints filed with the Minneapolis Office of Police Conduct Review against Chief of Police Brian O’Hara have been made public. O’Hara, the first police chief to be confirmed by the Minneapolis City Council since the murder of George Floyd, hasn’t even been in office for a year.

The first complaint involves O’Hara being “abusive and unprofessional” towards an Edina, Minn. police officer when he demanded and was denied an unpublished police report. The second concerned O’Hara’s use of “reportable force,” which he actually did not report.

The final complaint revolved around O’Hara’s dishonesty: He had told the investigative newsroom Minnesota Reformer that he was not a part of the hiring process of former MPD Officer Tyler Timberlake, who had been previously charged with assaulting a suspect while working as a law enforcement agent in Virginia. The Reformer later revealed that O’Hara had personally signed off on the hiring.

Neither O’Hara nor Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey have responded to the accusations, which are still being investigated by the city’s Attorney's Office.

What we’re watching for tonight's GOP primary debates

This evening, eight candidates for the Republican nominee for president will debate in Milwaukee — excluding, of course, former president and current frontrunner Donald Trump. Trump will be engaging in an interview with Tucker Carlson during the televised discourse.

The competitors that qualified for the debate include: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former Vice President Mike Pence, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

Barring something unprecedented, none of these people will even sniff the presidency. But that’s not going to stop us from ogling this freak show. Here’s what we’re expecting from what will most likely be an amusing fistfight between a group of futile incompetents.

1. Who will try to out-Trump Trump?

DeSantis, Ramaswamy and Christie have all positioned themselves as the most pugilistic of the group. Mr. “DeSanctimonious” has been known for sparring with the media, Ramaswamy has tried to present himself as the most “anti-woke” candidate and Christie is out for blood after being spurred by the Trump wing of the party. Expect these three to throw the most mud, either at their opponents or the broader, mainstream culture they’ve been shadowboxing with for months now.

2. Who will openly concede that Biden won the 2020 presidential election?

While more establishment candidates like Scott, Pence and Christie have openly critiqued Trump’s electoral denialism, others like Haley and DeSantis have been wishy-washy on the matter. For example, while Haley has stated that the results of 2020 were legitimate, she’s openly partnered with a slate of Big Lie conspiracists. Meanwhile, DeSantis has tried to ride the line between conceding that Joe Biden is, in fact, president and leaning on rhetorical ambiguity to question the ethics of the vote-counting process.

With the fallout of the Dominion lawsuit hanging over hosting network Fox News, it will definitely be worth analyzing how all parties involved try to square this circle.

3. Will there be any talk of actual policy?

Since the fall of Trump in 2020, the GOP has spent the preceding years ramping up culture war grievances and fear-mongering over actual alternatives to any of the Democratic Party’s economic and political policies. It will be interesting to see if any of the candidates try to distinguish themselves by offering, you know, actual proposals for improving their constituents' lives.

With so many socio-economic obstacles to overcome, what right-wing alternatives, if anything, can be presented? Or will this cohort of candidates (predictably) collapse everything into a “War on Woke”?

Even more intriguing, how will paradigm shifts within the conservative movement impact responses by the candidates when it comes to issues like the war in Ukraine, trade policy with China and the potential end of American unipolarity in South America?

4. Are any of these candidates VP options?

While Pence, Christie and DeSantis seem like obvious no’s, Scott, Ramaswamy and Haley could all become potential allies of Trump — especially given how cagey they’ve been about attacking the face of the GOP. Each brings a certain flavor of reactionary respectability that could help Trump win over the right-leaning, independent voters who defected to the Democrats last time around. If any of them plays it safe on questions concerning Trump and attacks his main rivals, would he view them as a possible running mate?  

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Jamie Larson