In the second GOP primary debate, moderator Dana Perino posed a challenging question to the seven Republican hopefuls: Who would be willing to step aside to defeat Donald Trump? Since the former president has held a commanding lead in the polls, tensions flared, and the candidates vied to prove themselves as a worthy choice.
Donald Trump has maintained a commanding lead in GOP polls by a staggering 42 points. In response to this lead, many feel the only way for another candidate to win against the former president is for other nominees to drop out entirely.
Missing in Action
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis accused Donald Trump of being “missing in action” and absent from the debate stage. He then attributed $7.8 trillion in debt and the ongoing inflation to Trump’s past actions as president.
Christie’s Donald Duck
The absence of Trump left the field questioning who could close the gap with the frontrunner.
Personal attacks and squabbles characterized much of the evening, with Chris Christie referring to Trump as “Donald Duck” and claiming that Trump was avoiding facing the other candidates.
The candidates’ attempts to gain momentum were evident in their one-liners and sharp exchanges, including Haley’s mocking of Vivek Ramaswamy’s TikTok account and Chris Christie’s “Donald Duck” analogy for Trump.
A Provoking Question
After a long night of bickering and personal attacks, the moderator, Dana Perino, set the stage for an imposing question by explaining that none of them really have a chance if they all remain in the race.
She then asked, “So which one of you onstage tonight should be voted off the island?”
Polls Don’t Elect Presidents
Perino’s question set the stage for the evening, with candidates reluctant to name someone who should drop out.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the second-place contender, finally said, “Polls don’t elect presidents, voters elect presidents.”
Chris Christie is Clear
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took a different approach and said, “ I think I’m the only one on this stage who’s been clear about this – I’d vote Donald Trump off the island right now,”
Christie argued that all candidates had shown respect for Republican voters, highlighting the need for a united front.
Ramaswamy’s Next Level
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who later had his own moment in the spotlight, expressed his admiration for Trump’s presidency while advocating for a candidate who could take the “America First” agenda to the next level.
Haley and Pence
Nikki Haley emphasized her economic policy and pledged to allocate all aid to the southern border, while Mike Pence took the time to say he advocated for expediting the death penalty for mass shootings.
President of the Reagan Foundation & Institute, David Trulio, expressed disappointment that Trump chose not to participate in the debate despite meeting the Republican National Committee’s qualifications.
Not Signing the Pledge
Trulio furthered his comments on Trump’s absence by stating, “ ‘He has chosen not to sign the pledge as I understand it, which therefore precludes his ability to come on stage, but he met the other requirements that the RNC set.’
Trump Goes After Biden
During a recent speech to autoworkers, Trump used his absence from the debate he chose not to address it and instead launched an attack on President Biden.
Trump said Biden was a “wretched old vulture” and a “rotten politician” who wanted to “rape and pillage’” American jobs.
After the debate was over Trump’s campaign released a statement saying the RNC should simply cancel future debates, describing them as “boring” and “inconsequential.”
Democrats also took the opportunity to criticize the GOP by hiring a plane that circled the library trailing a banner reading: “GOP 2024: A Race for the Extreme MAGA Base.”
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Christopher Halloran. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.