The second Republican debate for the Presidential nomination took place on Wednesday, September 27 at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. The participants were former South Carolina Governor and Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Senator Tim Scott (SC), North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, former Governor Chris Christie (NJ), and former Vice President Mike Pence. Notably absent from this lineup was former President Donald Trump who spent the evening giving a speech to supporters and autoworkers in Michigan.
As expected, Burgum did not receive much screen time and was seldom called on to answer questions. As he is currently polling at 0.9% according to FiveThirtyEight, it seems like that he drop out of the race prior to Super Tuesday.
Governor Christie spent most of the evening talking about Trump and making awkward jokes, like calling him “Donald Duck” on account of Trump ducking the debate to have his own event, or stating that he believed it was improper that President Joe Biden is “sleeping with a teachers union member”.
DeSantis also went after Trump a surprising amount considering thus far in the campaign he has been quiet about the former President and mostly just ignored him. He called Trump and Biden “missing in action” and criticized their leadership. DeSantis mostly avoided the skirmishes that marred the debate with other candidates going off the rails fighting with each other and ignoring the moderator’s persistent calls to reign them back in.
The worst fights pitted Ramaswamy and Haley as well as Ramaswamy and Scott. Haley and Ramaswamy fought in the first debate so this fact was not particularly surprising, but Senator Scott had a subpar performance the first time around and was much more outspoken in this debate.
Ramaswamy changed his tune, he called the candidates on the stage “bought and paid for” last time and was extremely arrogant and smarmy. He toned that down for the second debate and even claimed that he would have all of the people on stage as advisors during his hypothetical administration.
Pence also did not receive as many opportunities to speak, and when he did he avoided almost any question he was asked and just went on rehearsed tangents that were irrelevant to the current conversation. He took a shot at Christie’s comment about the President by stating that he “has been sleeping with a teacher for 38 years.” He stared into the camera as he said it expecting applause and laughter but he was just met with awkwardness.
All of the candidates spoke ad nauseam about the border crisis and fentanyl, with very few candidates properly pronouncing the name of the potent drug. The moderators were former Press Secretary for George W. Bush and Fox News analyst Dana Perino, British Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney, and far left Univision anchor Ilia Calderón. Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom was also in the building and gave analysis and harsh criticism of the candidates to the Fox News audience.
When asked what they thought about the debate, a student who watched it said that they believed the candidates spent too much time talking about the border crisis and not enough time talking about the issues that mattered to the student, like health care and gun violence.
Another student stated that they thought the candidates answered every question with buzz words like “fentanyl” and that they lacked actual substance in their answers.
According to a Washington Post/Ipsos poll, 54 percent of viewers saw DeSantis’ performance as “excellent or very good” while Haley had 44 percent, Ramaswamy at 40, Scott at 30, Burgum at 19, Christie at 18, and Pence had 11 percent. This would suggest that most viewers see DeSantis as the winner of the debate. To some it seemed like the only winner was Trump since most of the candidates just created a spectacle on stage and made themselves look immature and foolish by attacking each other.
Others would add that we as viewers lost the debate more than any candidate because it was so difficult to follow and such little policy was actually discussed. The Republican primary polls remain unchanged as well, so the debate did little to change anyone’s minds in that regard unlike the first debate which saw Ramaswamy fall and Haley rise in the polls following it. There have definitely been better examples of discourse in American politics.