Republican Debate: Seven US presidential candidates engaged in a spirited debate on Wednesday during the second Republican primary debate in Simi Valley. The topics of discussion included immigration, China, and the economy. However, the most intense moments of the debate were directed at frontrunner Donald Trump, who chose to skip the event and instead met with auto industry workers in Michigan.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a vocal opponent of Trump among the candidates, accused the former president of avoiding the debates and quipped, “You’re evading these debates, and if you keep doing that, we won’t call you Donald Trump anymore; we’ll call you Donald Duck.” This remark garnered boos from the audience.
The candidates on the stage included Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, and Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum completed the lineup for the debate, which was moderated by Fox Business and Univision at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.
Meanwhile, Trump, who is facing multiple legal challenges, was in Michigan attempting to bolster his reputation as a champion of blue-collar workers and criticize President Joe Biden’s pro-worker image. Biden had recently visited striking union members in the state.
Trump delivered a speech at a non-union factory, where he criticized Biden’s claim of being the most pro-union president in history. He argued that Biden’s career was marked by economic betrayal and union disintegration.
The debate’s first question focused on handling the ongoing strike by the United Auto Workers against General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis. While Ramaswamy expressed sympathy for the striking workers, Scott emphasized his priority of addressing immigration over the labor dispute.
Despite Trump’s legal challenges, he maintained a commanding lead in the polls, with 59 percent of Republican primary voters choosing him as their top candidate, while DeSantis trailed at 16 percent.
DeSantis expressed frustration at not receiving a question during the initial 16 minutes of the debate and criticized Trump for not participating, saying, “Donald Trump is missing in action. He should be on this stage tonight. He owes it to you to defend his record, which led to a $7.8 trillion increase in debt and set the stage for the current inflation.”
Christie criticized Trump’s immigration policies, a key issue contributing to the current deadlock in Congress over government funding.
Despite the heated debate and candidates frequently talking over one another, there was general consensus on many issues. However, there were notable divisions on the topic of the war in Ukraine, with Christie, Scott, and Pence supporting US support for Kyiv, while DeSantis and Ramaswamy expressed skepticism.
The candidates also discussed the growing challenge posed by Beijing, with Ramaswamy defending his attendance at an event hosted by the Chinese-owned video app TikTok, despite its ban on US government devices, by stating that he was trying to reach out to young people.
Nikki Haley criticized Ramaswamy’s comments, saying, “Honestly, every time I hear you speak, I feel a little less informed.”
In response to the policy proposals discussed during the two-hour debate, the Biden campaign issued a scathing critique, particularly on the topic of border control, stating, “Not one person on that stage is serious about enacting meaningful immigration reform, and it shows,” according to campaign spokesman Kevin Munoz.