Republican candidates face each other in second debate, with Trump absent

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Donald Trump's Republican rivals clashed on Wednesday in a chaotic presidential debatelaunching attacks against the absent former president, Democratic President Joe Biden, and each other over issues ranging from China to migration and the economy to drug trafficking in Mexico.

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But when the debate ended, none of the seven candidates on stage seemed to have achieved the kind of decisive moment that would alter the dynamics of a primary contest that Trump has dominated for months, despite his four criminal charges, which were virtually unmentioned during the two-hour broadcast of the debate on Fox Business, the business channel of the conservative Fox News network. .

Trump, who led his closest rival for the nomination by 37 percentage points in the most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, skipped the debate, as he did with the first in Wisconsin last month.

Ramaswamy's new 'attack' against Mexico

The biotechnology entrepreneur reiterated his attacks against violence in Mexicoand proposed in the debate that, just as there is a budget to finance the war in Ukraine, there is also a budget to combat the drug trafficking cartels, ensuring that he will talk about this issue with the Morena candidate, Claudia Sheinbaum, "or with whoever wins the presidential election" in 2024.

"Whether it's Sheinbaum or whoever wins the election, I'm going to reset the relationship and say, 'Listen, for a small fraction of what we've spent in Ukraine, we can help you take back your sovereignty from the drug cartels,'" Ramaswamy said. . "If you don't do it, we'll go in and do it (...) it's like if a neighbor has a dog that comes into your yard and keeps biting your family repeatedly (...) at some point you can take a shotgun and shoot it to this dog."

Like several Republicans, Ramaswamy is a defender of the United States intervening in Mexico to combat drug trafficking and stop the activity of the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels.

The 'friendly fire' between Republicans and Trump's absence

The moderators did not ask the candidates about Trump's myriad legal problems. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis used his first response to denounce Trump for being "missing in action" and adding trillions of dollars to the national debt.

“I should be on this stage tonight,” DeSantis said, drawing applause from the audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. "He owes it to you to defend his record."

DeSantis, whose poll numbers have declined after he was widely seen as the leading alternative to Trump, has been more willing to attack the favorite recently after months of avoiding direct confrontation. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a frequent critic of Trump, He intervened by saying that Trump was "scared" and mocking him as "Donald Duck." for missing the debate.

Mike Pence, Trump's vice president between 2017 and 2021, offered mild criticism of Trump's desire to centralize power in the federal government, promising to return power to the states. And former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley said Trump had taken the wrong approach toward China by focusing exclusively on trade, rather than broader security issues.

Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the November 2024 election, was also a frequent target of Republican candidates, who criticized his handling of the economy and the southern border with Mexico. But the debate candidates, most of them stuck in single digits in national polls, spent most of the afternoon attacking each other.

In the final segment of the debate, moderator Dana Perino asserted that Trump's nomination was inevitable as long as the field remained fractured between multiple candidates. As in the first debate in August, Ramaswamy repeatedly drew the ire of his most experienced opponents.

"Every time I listen to you, I feel a little more stupid," Nikki Haley, a former United Nations ambassador, told Ramaswamy after defending her joining TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media site that has raised security concerns among U.S. officials. Ramaswamy said he uses the app to connect with young voters.

"Polls don't elect presidents, voters elect presidents," DeSantis responded.

Minutes before the debate began, Trump gave a speech to auto workers in the battleground state of Michigan, inserting himself into a national dispute between striking workers and the country's major automakers, a day after Biden will join a union picket.

"They're all candidates for the job," Trump said dismissively of the seven Republicans in the debate. "Does anyone see any vice presidents in the group? I don't think so."

By avoiding both debates, The former president indicated that he was focused on Biden, his former and perhaps future opponent, rather than Republican contenders who are doing poorly in the polls. The 77-year-old businessman-turned-politician has been charged in four criminal cases and on Tuesday a New York state judge determined that he committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets commercial.

With less than four months until the nation's first Republican nomination contest in Iowa, Trump's rivals are running out of time to weaken his dominance in the primary campaign. Wednesday's debate was particularly important for DeSantis, whose campaign has already undergone two personnel changes as donors expressed concern about his inability to beat Trump.

DeSantis, 45, made a name for himself nationally by opposing many US government policies to prevent the spread of Covid-19. He has since become a leading figure fighting against what he says are overly progressive policies favored by educators and corporations. Haley, meanwhile, hoped a second straight strong debate would convince some Republican donors that he has the best chance of unseating Trump.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum also qualified for the debate.

The immigration crisis, the focus of the Republicans

All candidates promised to take a forceful approach to migration and attacked the Biden administration for failing to stop the immigration crisis that has caused record illegal crossings on the southern border. DeSantis promised to deploy the U.S. military against Mexican cartels, while Ramaswamy said he would try to revoke birthright citizenship from the children of those who entered the country illegally.

Even when asked about the growing auto workers strike in the United States, Senator Tim Scott took the issue to the border while criticizing Biden for joining Tuesday's auto union sit-in.

"Biden should not be on the picket line, Scott said. "He should be on the southern border working to close our southern border because it is insecure, it is very open and insecure, and it has caused the deaths of 70,000 Americans in the last 12 months to because of fentanyl.

Most candidates expressed support for continuing aid to Ukraine, although DeSantis said he would not offer a "blank check." Ramaswamy, who has said he would cut aid, warned that backing Ukraine was pushing Russia toward China.prompting fresh criticism from rivals that he would appease Russian President Vladimir Putin.


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