Seven GOP hopefuls face off in second presidential debate at Reagan Library

The second Republican presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle took place on Wednesday, September 25, 2023, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. The debate was hosted by Fox Business and Univision, and featured seven candidates who met the qualification criteria set by the Republican National Committee (RNC).

The candidates

The seven candidates who qualified for the debate were:

  • North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, who has been praised for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his support for renewable energy.
  • Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is known for his blunt and combative style and his experience as a federal prosecutor.
  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump and a vocal critic of President Kamala Harris and her administration.
  • Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is seen as a potential bridge between the Trump and anti-Trump factions of the GOP and a strong advocate for American leadership on the world stage.
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence, who served under Trump for four years and has been trying to balance his loyalty to the former president with his own political ambitions.
  • Vivek Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur and author who is running as an outsider and a critic of woke culture and corporate censorship.
  • Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who is the only African American Republican in the Senate and a leader on issues such as criminal justice reform and opportunity zones.
Seven GOP hopefuls face off in second presidential debate at Reagan Library
Seven GOP hopefuls face off in second presidential debate at Reagan Library

The highlights

The debate covered a range of topics, including the economy, immigration, foreign policy, health care, social issues, and the role of government. Some of the highlights of the debate were:

  • Burgum touted his record as a successful businessman and governor, and said he would bring a pragmatic and innovative approach to solving the nation’s problems. He also criticized the Biden-Harris administration for its mishandling of the Afghanistan withdrawal and its failure to secure the southern border.
  • Christie attacked DeSantis for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida, saying he put politics over public health and endangered the lives of Floridians. He also challenged Pence to explain why he did not invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office after the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
  • DeSantis defended his response to the pandemic, saying he protected the rights and freedoms of Floridians while keeping the economy open. He also accused Harris of being weak and incompetent on foreign policy, and vowed to restore America’s strength and sovereignty if elected president.
  • Haley emphasized her experience as a governor and a diplomat, and said she would rebuild America’s alliances and confront its adversaries. She also denounced the Biden-Harris administration for its radical agenda on abortion, gun control, and critical race theory, and said she would defend the Constitution and the rule of law.
  • Pence highlighted his accomplishments as vice president, such as cutting taxes, rebuilding the military, appointing conservative judges, and advancing pro-life policies. He also expressed his support for Trump and his agenda, but said he would be his own man as president and bring unity to the country.
  • Ramaswamy presented himself as a fresh voice and a disruptor of the status quo. He said he would take on the corrupt elites in Washington, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood, and restore free speech and free markets. He also criticized both parties for being beholden to special interests and failing to address the needs of ordinary Americans.
  • Scott focused on his personal story as a son of a single mother who rose from poverty to success. He said he would champion policies that would create more opportunities for all Americans, regardless of their race, gender, or background. He also called for civility and bipartisanship in politics, and said he would work with anyone who shared his vision for a better future.

The aftermath

The debate was watched by an estimated 12 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings. The candidates received mixed reviews from pundits and analysts, with some praising their performances and others pointing out their weaknesses. The debate did not seem to have a major impact on the polls, which still show Trump leading the field by a wide margin.

The next Republican presidential debate will be held on October 23 in Des Moines, Iowa.

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