On Wednesday Sept. 27, seven Republicans took the stage at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in the 2nd GOP Debate to determine who the party will choose as their next presidential candidate. Those candidates, in order of pre-debate polling numbers were Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Biotech billionaire Vivek Ramaswamy, former South Carolina Governor and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former New Jersey Governor. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.
Former President Donald Trump is still the frontrunner, by as many as 16 points in the early polling states. Rather than debating, the former President chose to speak to Auto Workers in Detroit, where he tried gaining support and speaking of the dangers of a shift to EV technology in the auto industry.
The structure of the debate was that there were no opening or closing statements, candidates had a minute to respond to questions given to them by the moderator and 30 seconds for any follow-ups.
The first topic was the recent strikes by the UAW. Most of the candidates shared a similar conservative sentiment that they supported unions but only to an extent. They supported the workers but called out some Union demands that included more pay for less hours. Ramaswamy was quoted as saying “Victimhood is a choice” and he, as well as Mike Pence, suggested workers should picket at the White House because of high inflation. Tim Scott showed relative support for the unions saying the “American Dream is alive and well” and Haley added she wants to eliminate gas and diesel tax.
The debate shifted towards the nation’s debt and Christie and DeSantis both called out the Trump and Biden administrations for adding a combined $12 billion to our nation’s debt during their terms. Christie told Trump to “Stop hiding behind his golf clubs like a coward and come debate” and called him “Donald Duck.”
Tensions slowly began to rise as to the point where there were multiple minutes of inaudible yelling between Burgum trying to make a name for himself, Scott taking shots at Ramaswamy and DeSantis trying to mediate their scuffle.
One topic all the candidates were able to agree on was the situation at the border. While they had slightly differing approaches to the issue, all seven Republicans agreed that there is a crisis at the border that the Trump and Biden administrations have failed to successfully address. They all want to diminish illegal immigrants crossing at the border and the travel of fentanyl throughout the country.
China became a heavy topic as all candidates acknowledged they want less Chinese influence in the U.S. and surrounding countries in North and South America. DeSantis also talked about limiting U.S. businesses setting up shop in China. Shots were fired at Ramaswamy towards his former business dealings in China and then his lack of a voting record. China came up on multiple occasions over the course of the debate in regard to the Russian-Ukraine War, TikTok, and tech companies.
Some other topics that were discussed were candidates’ views on education, the healthcare system, the LGBTQ community, the Ukraine war, abortion and TikTok. Some people noted the lack of questions involving gun violence. That was something that was briefly touched upon, but was quickly diverted into an argument about education.
Following the debate Trump is still the large frontrunner, his lead largely unchanged. DeSantis holds his spot handily at second, but after what was viewed as a stellar performance by Haley, he should be careful. Haley leapfrogged Ramaswamy in the polls which is a big deal given Ramaswamy’s big performance in the first debate last month. Scott asserted himself as a legitimate contender and has gone up in the polls. These 5 are all seen as legitimate candidates and look to see all of them at the next debate. Note however that Trump might skip out on the next debate as well, assuming he retains his polling lead.
Ultimately it is expected, based on poll numbers, that Christie, Pence and Burgum will not garner enough support to make it into the next debate. It will be quite the uphill battle for these three.
It is important to note that Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, businessman Larry Elder, Pastor Perry Johnson and entrepreneur Ryan Binkley are still technically in the race for the Republican nomination. Unfortunately none of them met the qualifications to debate; 3% or more on at least 2 national polls and have 50,000 unique donors. They are all expected to officially drop out soon.
The third GOP debate will take place in early November. The GOP is yet to release information on sponsors, date or specific location.