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New Faces Lead Ahead of First Republican Debate: WSJK (Champaign, IL) Fox News Interview

As the 2024 presidential primary season officially kicks off with this Wednesday's Republican debate in Milwaukee, WI, longtime Milwaukee resident and TBOR Action President John Pudner joined former US Senate candidate Johnny Jay and WSJK host Stevie Jay to preview the 2024 presidential field as it currently stands.

While the Democratic field has yet to expand outside of President Biden, the Republican field has seen new, younger faces take a considerable rise as alternatives to the current frontrunner and former President Trump. Notably, Vivek Ramaswamy, pharmaceutical entrepreneur, Cincinnati, OH native, and the youngest Republican presidential candidate in history, tied with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the second youngest candidate in the race, in the latest Emerson College poll. All three discuss how these two candidates leading not only reflects the party deciding who to pass the baton to once former President Trump's time as a candidate ends, but also national sentiment for change within each party and fresh perspectives on how to win in what is sure to be a tough, contested election.

To learn more about TBOR Action's efforts on topics including election integrity, please click here.

The following transcript from this interview is presented in its entirety with minor edits:


Trump, running, voting, Vivek, Milwaukee, win, debate, sign, pledge, Biden, poll, campaign.


Johnny Jay, Stevie Jay, and TBOR Action President John Pudner.

Stevie Jay 00:00

Happy to have John Pudner, he's in Milwaukee, and let me tell you about John. He is the President of Take Back Our Republic Action, a Bush 2000 aide, and the only person in US history to run a campaign defeating a Majority Leader in a primary. John Pudner in Milwaukee, how are you?

John Pudner 00:20

Doing great. Just getting myself ready for the debate up here.

Stevie Jay 00:23

Well, that's right. We got the first debate next week in Milwaukee. My brother Johnny is here, he ran for US Senate, he has been politically active for 30+ years, and I told him, John, you told me last time, that his top concern, I think, appropriately, is dropboxes and some of the...

Johnny Jay 00:43

Well, it's more so voting procedures that are my top three concerns.

Stevie Jay 00:46

So, did they not do that anymore? Did they get rid of that in Wisconsin? Have they tighten up the voting laws or what's the story?

John Pudner 00:54

They did tighten them and did a pretty good job. On dropboxes, there are still going to be some at the voting places, but they're going to kind of be like mailboxes sitting all around the state, so much easier to monitor with only one per county.

Stevie Jay 01:06

How do you know though? How can you ever tell? Because in 2006, there was a study done with Jimmy Carter and James Baker that said, "Hey, you got to watch out for these absentees...

Johnny Jay 01:14

or just any kind of mail-in and focus on minimizing those cause they are real hard to track...

Stevie Jay 01:19

How do they verify all of that?

John Pudner 01:21

Yeah, it can be done. There's one state that actually does a very good job at it - Utah - and they just got such a good signature match system that, if you try to sign the outside of your wife's ballot, the outside envelope, they'll stop it, they'll call you, and tell you that's a fraudulent signature, so that kind of works like voter ID, but that's the one state I've seen do it well.

Stevie Jay 01:47

Okay, well, I can't count on everybody wanting to do it well,

Johnny Jay 01:50

If sure you've heard about Chicago and Detroit....

Stevie Jay 01:52

Yeah. I'm not sure about any of that, John. So, we are really in interesting times. New poll today has Donald Trump with 60% of the Republicans and Ramaswamy has past Ron DeSantis in a poll. What does that mean?

Johnny Jay 02:07

Well, I believe it because he's just different, he's young, and he's smart. We haven't seen a lot of smart like that, John. That's kind of nice.

John Pudner 02:20

Vivek has really taken on the role that he is the alternative at this stage, and obviously, Trump is so far ahead, saying the alternative might not mean anything. But, I think the baton, eventually, needs to be passed, and as an old white guy, I don't mind saying the Republican Party will be helped by perhaps some other face of the movement. The way Vivek goes out, and talks to youth, and says, "Why do you think America is great?", and makes them think... they may have different reasons than someone my age who thinks of other great things America does. I think he's a real breath of fresh air.

Stevie Jay 02:58

Well, he's the only guy who has also said that he will pardon Trump on day one, nobody else has said...

Johnny Jay 03:04

Well, that's the thing. He's talking about issues, and he is pushing back on some of the Democrat policies, but he's not out personally starting any kind of inter-Republican bashing, which I think is pretty important, but we'll see.

John Pudner 03:21

The main hit on him seems to be, "Well, he wasn't really a conservative until recently", to which I say, "Was Trump back conservative until recently before 2016?" I mean, I think people argue better for things when they didn't always believe them, you know? You have to think through how did I get to this conservative position, and you're much better articulating it, and so I think that's a plus if he was, I don't know if this is true...

Johnny Jay 03:50

Well, I think too, when you see some of the extreme left, say, "You're gonna get pushed further right. That's just how it works. Because your...", "wait a minute, now, what are they doing? That's not what I meant by that." And then, you start moving the other direction when it's not working.

Stevie Jay 04:10

That kinda reminds of the hayday of Newt Gingrich, where he was really smart, too, and sometimes he could just tie up. I mean, he just knew how to debate and everything else...this debate next week, I don't think Donald Trump's gonna get in there because he's not signing the pledge to support whoever, so that, supposedly, takes him out of it, even if he wanted to come. Vivek, I can't wait to see him on stage because I think he is really smart.

Johnny Jay 04:33

Wouldn't you want Trump in it? Because to me, if you demand this kind of a pledge, you know he's not gonna sign it, so is that to keep him out? I don't know why he wouldn't get in that debate. I guess he doesn't need it.

John Pudner 04:45

He doesn't need it, so that's certainly, probably, the argument that wins out. At the same time, it'd be fun for him to last minute come in, and say, "Well, I'm so far, I'll obviously I'll be the nominee", it would be a typical of Trump dramatic moment to possibly get in right at the end, so I'll hold out hope.

Johnny Jay 05:03

And I gotta tell you to, John, Stevie was talking about it's not fair he can't campaign, and that I agree it's not fair, but I don't think he needs to campaign either. I mean, if you want $2 trillion worth of a name exposure, look up Donald Trump, because whether they like it or not, what's the old adage, there's no such thing as bad political press?

Stevie Jay 05:26

He's the most recognized human on Earth, John.

John Pudner 05:30

Yes. I think actually, Nick Lowry, the editor of National Review, who is not a huge Trump fan, but he said, "I don't think DeSantis realized he was running against the greatest showmen on Earth." I think that sums it up.

Johnny Jay 05:43

You're right, and he didn't appreciate Ron running because he really did help him win his first term at governor in Florida. And it's, you know, little loyalty still means something to some of us.

Stevie Jay 06:00

Let me ask you, before you leave, what's your take on this thing? I mean, can you absolutely count on Donald Trump running against Joe Biden in 24?

John Pudner 06:10

There's still a long way to go, but yeah, historically, you haven't seen a lead this big in a primary before. I was with George W. Bush, who got going real early in 2000, lined up a lot, but I mean, McCain was certainly still much, much closer to us than anyone is to Trump this year. But, because there's so much legal going on, who knows what direction that goes? I won't say that is a sure thing, but it certainly lined up there. Certainly, Democrats realize Biden's not their best one either, but, you gotta get the big guy I think the legal documents are referred to, you gotta get him to say he's not running. So you know, is that the collision course, or do we have two presidents who are either in their 80s, or will be in their 80s, during their term running against each other?

Johnny Jay 07:00

What do the inside political powers that be think about the chances of them being able to legally stop Trump from running, which I think is the purpose? Is it not just the negative press just keeping him from being able to run? Is that going to work in any of these states?

John Pudner 07:17

Well, I think that's why he just keeps saying basically that he'd have to be in jail in so many words...

Stevie Jay 07:24

He'd probably win from jail. Do you get Secret Service if you're in jail? I don't get it. I don't know. How would that work? It's so unprecedented. None of this has ever before. I've been on a Ferris wheel before, but not a roundabout, come on, man! This is a crazy time. Any predictions, John?

John Pudner 07:49

We'll have to see how it plays out here. I do think Trump still does have a general election problem, and pretty consistently, it's over 50% who say I would never, ever, ever back Trump, and about 43% say that about Biden, by the way, so I just always worried about his feeling a bit that you can win the presidency with less than 50%, because we have Electoral College, but that is an awfully low ceiling to sneak out a win. So, I think that's his tough part, even as he's indicted, it's helping make him more surely the nominee.

Johnny Jay 08:20

I think that 43% might grow too, John so I think that's the big thing with Joe. There'll be people who won't vote for either one of them. and that works to Trump's favor.

Stevie Jay 08:30

President of Take Back Our Republic Action, John Pudner. How do people find you, John?

John Pudner 08:36

Yeah, just Leave off the word find when you're on the website, just and would love to have you sign-up. We get a lot of people in Illinois on the list.

Stevie Jay 08:42

Well, you are a younger man living outside the swamp, John. Pleasure having you again, sir. Thank you.

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