The second debate of the Republican National Convention for the 2024 presidential primary took place at the Ronald Reagan Library on September 27, 2023. This debate was notably characterized by heightened contention and vigor among the candidates, who engaged in rigorous exchanges and criticisms of each other’s campaigns. A prominent feature was Ron DeSantis’ more aggressive approach, challenging the absence of Donald Trump from the debates and rebuking his disregard for their importance. Chris Christie and Mike Pence also expressed their displeasure about Trump’s disengagement from the debates and characterized his behavior as “unpresidential”. Nikki Haley endeavored to position herself as a candidate aligned with traditional Republican values.
Here is a summary of the key issues discussed categorized by issue, ordered by chronology:
Financial Stress and Union Strikes:
The discourse commenced with an exploration of financial stress, centering on recent union strikes and President Biden’s engagement with picket lines. The candidates emphasized the importance of embracing capitalism, reducing taxes for corporation, and eliminating Title 42.
Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley advocated for fossil fuel drilling and tax reduction on diesel and petrol. Mike Pence voiced unequivocal support for Union Rights and committed to reforming the “new deal,” although specific strategies were not outlined. All candidates pledged to stabilize the US dollar and preserve its global prominence.
The candidates unanimously attributed the government shutdown to the representatives in Washington and blamed the perceived corruption among bureaucrats therein. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy stated that the division in the United States does not stem from political party affiliation but rather from differences between the average Americans and what he referred to as the “Ruling Class of Elites.” Strikingly, all candidates criticized Donald Trump’s administration for amassing a substantial $7.4 trillion in national debt, despite his economic handling being a significant factor contributing to his popularity within the Republican Party and the broader GOP voter base.
Border Crisis and Fentanyl Issue:
Subsequently, the discourse shifted to the pressing issues of the ongoing border crisis in the southern border of The USA and the pervasive problem of fentanyl among citizens of lower income brackets. All candidates committed to not only completing the border wall initiated during Trump’s presidency but also reinforcing ICE and providing them with enhanced resources to detect and deport illegal immigrants. Governor Christie made a bold statement, vowing to terminate amnesty for all illegal immigrants irrespective of their circumstances. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy pledged to eliminate birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants and advocated for a citizenship test for citizens above eighteen before granting voting rights. Senator Tim Scott critiqued Ramaswamy for what he perceived as a lack of a consistent stance on the matter, highlighting Ramaswamy’s inclination to repeat popular talking points rather than providing substance. Pence promised to end the DREAMERS program and reduce the number of refugees accepted by the United States.
Crime and Trade Relations with China:
Midway through the debate, discussions delved into crime and trade relations with China, revealing varying responses and approaches from the candidates. Vice President Pence emphasized his credibility regarding China, stemming from his tenure during the Trump administration, pledging to continue existing policies while emphasizing bipartisan cooperation. Former Governor Christie highlighted his record in New Jersey, criticizing the “One China” policy and advocating for the revitalization of American manufacturing to reduce dependence on Chinese products. Governor DeSantis accentuated his accomplishments in Florida, expressing unwavering support for the police force and committing to reevaluating funding allocation to strengthen domestic policing systems while reducing aid to other nations, specifically vowing to reduce funds to Ukraine’s efforts against Russia.
The debate, though highly engaging, did not significantly alter the Republican base’s favorability toward Former President Trump. Current polling data from Fox News and Echelon Insight demonstrates Trump’s continued dominance, commanding up to 71% of the GOP vote. This raises pertinent questions about the trajectory of the Republican Party, witnessing a departure from established figures such as Bush, Dole, and Reagan. Republican voters strike a strong resonance with Trump, portraying him as an “outsider” and distancing him from the present establishment. An endorsement from President Trump holds substantial influence, serving as a crucial factor for campaign success, as exemplified by Governor DeSantis’ overwhelming victory after gaining Trump’s endorsement in the 2022 elections. Evidently, these debates are no longer simply a mechanism to determine the Republican presidential nominee; rather, they represent a race to secure the Vice Presidency in the envisioned administration of Donald J Trump.
President Trump’s choice to abstain from participation in the Republican National Committee (RNC) debates has garnered approval from a significant portion of the GOP voter base. However, this strategic decision by his campaign may have repercussions if he secures the position of the Republican nominee. A segment of the voter base perceives Trump as a figure akin to a dictator, especially following the insurrection events of January 6th, 202 1 and his subsequent denial of the 2020 election results. By opting out of debates, Trump risks reinforcing this negative characterization, as debates are a longstanding tradition in American electoral processes, symbolizing a commitment to democratic principles—a tradition that traces back to Abraham Lincoln.
Governor Christie has stated that this avoidance of debates could be interpreted as President Trump evading substantive discussions due to concerns about his own abilities. With the approaching election season, we, at the Stillman Exchange, strongly advocate for you, the reader, to conduct individual research and draw well-informed conclusions. It is crucial to recognize that a solitary vote possesses the potential to steer a nation and its democratic course. As responsible citizens, it is our duty to make well-reasoned and informed decisions regarding the individuals we select to represent our nation on the global stage.
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