The second Republican presidential debate, hosted by Fox Business and Univision at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, was marked by a cacophony of arguments among candidates and moderators, with viewers criticizing the latter for posing what were seen as irrelevant questions. The debate featured seven GOP contenders, with a notable focus on rising star Vivek Ramaswamy, the border crisis, and the absence of former President Donald Trump, who chose to skip the debate.
Candidate dissatisfaction with the moderators grew early on as they diverted from core Republican issues. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was questioned about the alleged racist slavery curriculum, and former Vice President Mike Pence was asked about hate crimes against LGBTQ people. The moderators, Fox Business host Stuart Varney, Fox News Channel host Dana Perino, and Univision anchor Ilia Calderón, struggled to maintain order and adhere to time limits amidst the heated exchanges.
A notable moment arose when North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum attempted to steer the discussion towards artificial intelligence, only to be threatened with a microphone cut-off by Perino. The debate frequently circled back to former President Trump, who was in Detroit, Michigan, addressing striking United Auto Workers members, a move that came a day after President Joe Biden’s visit to show solidarity with the workers.
The debate also highlighted the polling lead of Trump, who stood at 54% among GOP presidential candidates, with DeSantis trailing at nearly 14%, according to FiveThirtyEight. DeSantis, during the debate, criticized Trump for adding $7.8 trillion to the national debt, which he argued set the stage for current inflation issues. According to DeSantis, “He owes it to you to defend his record where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt. That set the stage for the inflation we have now.”
The discussion on policy took a backseat as candidates, including DeSantis and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, took jabs at Trump for his absence. The debate often veered towards the immigration crisis, with candidates like former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley advocating for a shift from “catch and release” to “catch and deport” policies at the southern border.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley criticized conservative businessman Vivek Ramaswamy for his positions on TikTok and business ties to China. Haley stated, “150 million people are on TikTok. That means they can get your contacts, they can get your financial information, they can get your emails, they can get your text messages, they can get all of these things. China knows exactly what they’re doing.” During the conversation, Ramaswamy tried to reply to Haley’s remarks but was interrupted and not able to finish his response. She then told Ramaswamy, “We can’t trust you.”
DeSantis shared a personal anecdote about his interaction with California residents who had been victims of mugging in sanctuary cities, emphasizing his priority to secure the border. Ramaswamy, who had gained attention in the first debate, faced attacks from his competitors, notably South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and Pence, who mocked his past business ties with China.
The moderators’ line of questioning, often perceived as focusing on identity politics and liberal issues, drew ire from viewers and participants alike. A question posed to DeSantis about Florida’s new black history curriculum sparked a backlash, with conservative commentator Megyn Kelly summarizing the event’s sentiment by questioning, “Is this an MSNBC debate?”
In summary, the second GOP debate was a tumultuous event, with candidates and moderators clashing over various issues, often overshadowing the policy discussions that were meant to be at the forefront of the debate.