2024 Election /

Trump's Absence Dominates Second Republican Primary Debate

Chris Christie: 'You're Ducking These Things ... You Keep Doing That ... We're Gonna Call You Donald Duck'

Former President Donald Trump’s absence dominated Wednesday’s Republican primary debate as candidates met for the second time in the 2024 presidential primary season.

The second Republican primary debate took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California and was hosted by Fox News.

To participate, candidates were required to receive at least 3% support in two or more national polls, or 3% in one national poll along with two early state polls from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and/or Nevada within 48 hours of the debate.

Seven candidates participated in the debate, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former United Nations ambassador and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

Rather than participate in the second Republican primary debate, former President Donald Trump visited United Auto Workers (UAW) union in Detroit, Michigan during their strike.

Similar to the first Republican primary debate, Trump’s absence commanded much of the evening’s attention among candidates.

At one point, Christie directly addressed Trump, saying he wasn’t participating in the debate because he was “afraid” of defending his record on stage.

“You’re ducking these things,” Christie said. “You keep doing that, no one up here’s gonna call you Donald Trump anymore. We’re gonna call you Donald Duck.”

Governor DeSantis similarly called out the former President’s absence, saying Trump was “missing in action.” DeSantis also criticized Trump’s recent reference to Florida’s 6-week abortion Heartbeat Bill as a “terrible mistake.”

“He’s had a lot to say about that,” DeSantis said of Florida’s Heartbeat Bill. “He should be here explaining his comments to try to say that pro-life protections are somehow a terrible thing.”

“I want him to look into the eyes and tell people who have been fighting this fight for a long time,” he added.

In the final question of the evening, moderator Dana Perino asked the candidates whom amongst themselves should be “voted off the island” in a reference to long-time reality TV show Survivor.

Perino asked candidates to write the name of the candidate of their choice to be “voted off the island,” to which candidates appeared confused.

Haley asked if Perino was serious while DeSantis politely declined the moderator’s request.

“With all due respect, we’re here. We’re happy to debate,” DeSantis said. “I think that that’s disrespectful to my fellow competitors.”

Former Governor Christie chimed in, however, saying he would vote Trump off the island due to his absence.

“This guy has not only divided our party, he’s divided families all over this country. He’s divided friends all over this country,” Christie said of the former President. “I’ve spoken to people, and I know everyone else has, who have sat at Thanksgiving dinner or at a birthday party and can’t have a conversation anymore if they disagree with Donald Trump.”

“He needs to be voted off the island and needs to be taken out of this process,” he concluded.

Trump previously said he would not participate in any Republican primary debate, citing a sizable lead over Governor DeSantis and other candidates.

Following the debate, the Trump campaign’s senior advisor Chris LaCivita released a statement.

“Tonight’s GOP debate was as boring and inconsequential as the first debate, and nothing that was said will change the dynamics of the primary contest being dominated by President Trump,” LaCivita wrote. “President Trump has a 40- or 50-point lead in the primary election and a 10-point lead over Joe Biden in the general election, and it’s clear that President Trump alone can defeat Biden.”

Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and former radio host Larry Elder did not qualify to participate in the second debate.

Elder was not allowed to participate in the first Republican primary debate last month despite meeting the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) qualifications.

Following Elder’s apparent ban from participating in the first primary debate, the former radio host announced his intention to sue the RNC.

“For some reason, the establishment leaders at the RNC are afraid of having my voice on the debate stage,” Elder said.

“The RNC should immediately put an end to any further primary debates so we can train our fire on Crooked Joe Biden and quit wasting time and money that could be going to evicting Biden from the White House.”

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