Brian Snyder/Reuters

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The Iowa caucuses are less than six weeks away. What's the state of the Republican primary?

Former President Donald Trump remains the far-and-away frontrunner in the primary, averaging just under 60% support among Republicans, according to major polls aggregated by FiveThirtyEight (Center bias).

But Trump was not present at the fourth Republican debate on Wednesday night, during which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie faced off in what may be the final debate of the primary. The four candidates on stage are collectively polling at a total of 30.9%.

The Trump Challengers Meet for Round Four

Frank Bruni (Lean Left bias) called the fourth Republican debate "totally, utterly pointless," arguing, "Ramaswamy’s going nowhere. Christie’s in the same sinking boat. If the polls are credible — and they’ve at least been consistent — not one of the four people onstage in Tuscaloosa, Ala., has made meaningful progress in peeling Republican voters away from Trump and closing the enormous gap between his front-runner status and their also-ran positions."

Jim Geraghty (Lean Right bias) deemed the debate a “mud fight and a circus” full of candidates with a “certain bitterness and damn-the-torpedoes attitude.” Arguing the debate platform and moderation style generated plenty of charged moments but little substance, Geraghty determines that “getting the candidates to pause, take a deep breath, and speak in paragraphs about policy specifics is just about impossible in this setup. Instead, the candidates are trying to unleash zingers or attempting to work in some overdramatized applause lines.”

A writer in the New York Post (Lean Right bias) argued Haley and DeSantis are the only candidates "with a fighting chance" of winning the race, but only if they realize that "Trump must be confronted head-on."

Trump Dominates the Headlines

Despite not participating in the fourth debate, Trump is not struggling to keep his name in the media cycle. This past week, left-rated outlets published a slew of anti-Trump articles.

The January/February 2024 issue of The Atlantic (Left bias) is devoted to speculating a second Trump term, determining it would be "much worse" than the first. The issue contains over a dozen articles on how Trump might handle immigration, China, abortion, and more.

A writer for the Washington Post (Lean Left bias) told voters to "face the stark reality" and confront the "clear path to dictatorship in the United States." The writer outlines this vision, stating that "Trump insists and no doubt believes that the current administration corruptly used the justice system to try to prevent his reelection. Will he not consider himself justified in doing the same once he has all the power?"

Responding to the wave of recent anti-Trump articles from left-rated outlets, Byron York (Right bias) argued in the Washington Examiner (Lean Right bias) left-rated voices have a "boy-who-cried-wolf problem." Despite discounting these articles, York determines that "Republicans would do well to think carefully about what a return to Trump will mean, both for the party and, more importantly, for the country."

A Townhall (Right bias) writer argued left-rated voices have a "palpable" desire to portray Trump as a "Nazi authoritarian," determining that these voices are "declaring Trump to be a fascist threat because he has pledged to root out the threat of fascism."

During a town hall on Fox News (Right bias) this week, Trump was asked about concerns he would abuse power if elected back into the White house. Trump responded that he wouldn't be a dictator "other than day one." His intentions for that day, he stated, are "closing the border" and "drilling, drilling, drilling."

The Republican primary kicks off in Iowa on January 15.

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More from the Left

Why a Second Trump Presidency May Be More Radical Than His First
The New York Times (analysis)

"What would be different in a second Trump administration is not so much his character as his surroundings. Forces that somewhat contained his autocratic tendencies in his first term — staff members who saw their job as sometimes restraining him, a few congressional Republicans episodically willing to criticize or oppose him, a partisan balance on the Supreme Court that occasionally ruled against him — would all be weaker."

More from the Right

Koch endorsement shows donor class still prefers Trump to populist alternative
Washington Examiner (opinion)

"While many Republicans don’t want Trump to run again, they also don’t want to turn the party over to the interests of Wall Street and Big Tech on immigration. For all his other faults as a candidate, DeSantis has a proven track record of choosing American voters over big business on immigration. That’s why so many Trump voters say they would support DeSantis as a second choice. That’s why Haley has no shot at beating Trump."

More from the Center

Nikki Haley's Path to Beating Donald Trump

"If Haley pulls off a better-than-expected showing in Iowa, and DeSantis does worse than expected, she could consolidate some of the anti-Trump vote, Huffmon said. And although he doesn't expect Haley to win in New Hampshire, Huffmon noted that she typically does better among independent voters, who "are more likely to show up there.'"

See more big stories from the past week.