Republican candidates strengthen Trump's leadership by making him the center of the second debate | International

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The urgency for relevance has marked the second debate of the Republican candidates for the presidency of the United States. With Donald Trump more than 40 points away from the nomination, the seven participants raised the tone of their attacks to close the gap on the absent leader. Instead, he traveled to Michigan to lead a rally with striking auto workers. Despite the void, Trump emerges stronger from the forum. Criticism of his absence was the main agreement among those attending the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.

“Donald Trump is missing,” said Ron DeSantis, second in the polls heading into the primaries. “He should be here to defend the record of his presidency and respond to the $7.8 trillion that he added to the United States debt,” said the Florida president. The strategy of hitting the leader was initiated by Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, the only one among the seven who is an open and vocal critic of the former president. “Donald Trump, I know you're watching this. “You can’t help it,” Christie said. “You are not absent because of the polls. You are afraid to defend your presidency. If you continue not to appear we will not call you Donald Trump, we will call you Donald Duck [además del personaje de Disney, duck es ponerse en cuclillas en inglés]”he joked.

The economy was the first topic of the debate. The candidates tried to be concise with the 60 seconds of their turn to criticize the Bidenomics and the 9% inflation that eats into the income of millions of families with increases in gasoline, which in California is close to seven dollars per gallon. "The Bidenomics "They have been a failure...Biden's agenda is good for China, but very bad for Detroit," said DeSantis, a candidate who managed to maintain ground by invoking Reagan on several occasions and selling his management in Florida as his vision for the country. DeSantis was the least attacked and the one who was able to state his policies most clearly. In the next debate, in Miami, he will play at home.

While this was happening, Trump was surrounded in a pivotal state by thousands of American workers. In the town of Clinton Township, he explained why his jobs have gone to countries like China or Mexico. And he mocked the forum jointly organized by Fox Business and Univision. “It's a job interview,” the former president assured his audience. “They want to be secretaries, maybe vice president. Has anyone seen the vice presidential candidate in them?… I don't think so, they don't have an audience like mine,” Trump said to applause, 3,200 kilometers from the debate. The distance was a clear metaphor for the advantage he has.

The forum was held beneath Air Force One, the plane that Ronald Reagan used during his presidency and was also used by six other leaders between 1973 and 2001. The figure of the actor who became governor of California and then the White House was present. throughout the debate. Reagan won his second term in a landslide and is considered an important beacon among Republicans thanks to his commitment to the free market and distaste for government regulation.

The current Republican Party, however, is closer to Trump than to Reagan. When Univision journalist Ilia Calderón made reference to the amnesty that the Republican president granted to three million undocumented immigrants in 1986, the candidates pledged to continue with the harsh policies of Trumpism. Among these, militarize the border by sending National Guard troops, continue the construction of the wall with Mexico, and remove financing from refuge cities. Nikki Haley even proposed a “special forces” operation against the drug cartels operating in Mexico.

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Ramaswamy, the 38-year-old pharmaceutical businessman who surprised in the first debate, opted for the same strategy. He peddled extreme policies with a big smile. “I am inclined to end giving nationality to the children of illegal immigrants… If the son of a Mexican diplomat does not have the benefits of birthright citizenship, then neither should someone whose parents violated the laws to come,” he said. Ramaswamy is trying to get closer to the second place occupied by DeSantis by arguing that the nationalist agenda is not exclusive to Trump. Tonight he opted for a unity speech despite the fact that last month he accused them of being corrupt and obeying dark interests. He also starred in a controversial moment by saying that transgender people “suffer from a mental health problem.”

Ramaswamy's growth in the polls has put him in the target of his opponents tonight. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott attacked him over his business dealings with China and linked him to Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's awkward son, who faces federal indictment. The owner of Roivant Sciences, a company that had a presence in Asia, was also the victim of friendly fire from Nikki Haley, Trump's former ambassador to the United Nations. “Honestly, every time I listen to you I feel a little dumber,” she told him about the millennial's presence on TikTok, a social network that has been banned by several state Republican governments.

Tonight has been a fight to stay within the margins. The candidates were arranged on stage depending on their position in the polls. The center went to DeSantis, who has between 14% and 21% in the polls. He was flanked by Ramaswamy and Nikky Halley, who saw a spike in donations after his performance in the first debate. Tonight, Scott dared to criticize the only woman on stage, accusing her of spending $50,000 on curtains for the ambassador's residence in New York. This is false, the renovation of the apartment was ordered during Obama's time.

Pence, Trump's vice president, appeared from one end of the stage, an example of the difficulties of his campaign, which registers between 3% and 6% of the preferences. On the other side was Doug Burgum, the governor of North Dakota, one of those who most monopolized the microphone in the hope of remaining among the candidates. From August to tonight, the Republican roster was reduced since Asa Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas, did not meet the requirements to repeat in the forum.

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