The second Republican presidential primary debate of the 2024 campaign was held on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
Seven candidates took part, narrowing down from eight after former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson didn’t make the cut: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.
Former President Donald Trump is skipping the event, as he did with the first debate.
Pence slammed President Joe Biden's economic policies in response to a question from Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney about his position on American workers amid the ongoing United Auto Workers strike.
"Bidenomics has failed. Wages are not keeping up with inflation. Auto workers and all American workers are feeling it. Families are struggling in this economy," Pence said, adding, Joe Biden's green new deal agenda is good for Beijing and bad for Detroit.”
Pence detailed the changes he would make if he won the presidency, saying, "We ought to rebuild the green new deal, get rid of the mandates and subsidies that are driving American gasoline, automotive manufacturing into the graveyard.”
"As president of the United States, I will be standing with workers all across America and I'll be standing for the right to work of every American to join a union or not join a union as they decide."
DeSantis hit out at Trump for failing to attend the debate, saying, "You know who else is missing in action? Donald Trump. He should be on the stage tonight. He owes it to you to defend his record."
Christie took direct aim at Trump and blame both the former President and President Joe Biden for gridlocked spending debates in Washington, DC.
"They have failed and they're in the spot they're in now because none of them are willing to tell the truth," he said, adding, "None of them are willing to take on the difficult issues. They just want to keep kicking the can down the road."
Christie said Americans are suffering because of government spending, yet "Joe Biden hides in his basement, and won't answer as to why he's raising the debt the way he's done."
"Donald Trump hides behind the walls of his golf clubs and won't show up here to answer questions like all the rest of us," charged Christie.
He later continued his attacks on Trump and, turning directly to the camera, said, "Donald, I know you are watching. You can't help yourself."
"You're not here tonight because you are afraid of being on the stage and defending your record," he said.
"If you keep doing that, no one up here is going to call you Donald Trump anymore. They will call you Donald Duck," added Christie, who later tweeted out a cartoon image of Donald Duck giving a thumbs up and winking.
Haley criticized Biden for joining the United Auto Workers picket line in Michigan earlier this week and blamed his economic policies for high inflation.
“I think we need to look at exactly what happened. Biden showed up on that picket line, but why are those workers actually there? It’s because of all of the spending that he has pushed through the economy that has raised the inflation,” Haley said.
Haley also took aim at Ramaswamy over his stance toward TikTok, the social media app owned by a Chinese company which has been banned by some states.
Responding to Ramaswamy’s justification for joining the app, Haley bluntly stated, “Every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber.”
Ramaswamy, who recently joined TikTok after a conversation with social media influencer Jake Paul, argued the app provides a platform to spread his message to younger voters. He said if he were elected president, he would ban anyone under 16 years of age from all “addictive social media,” but advocated for the pragmatic benefits of campaigning on the app.
“While the Democrats are running rampant reaching the next generation three to one, there's exactly one person in the Republican Party which talks a big game about reaching young people, and that’s me,” he said.
Haley sharply responded to Ramaswamy’s participation on the social media app by calling it “one of the most dangerous social media apps that we could have."
“One-hundred fifty million people are on TikTok. That means they can get your contacts, they can get your financial information, they can get your emails, they can get your text messages,” she said.
Haley continued to attack Ramaswamy for his business dealings in China and called for a total ban on the social media app.
"“We can’t trust you. We can’t trust you,” she said. “We can’t have TikTok in our kids’ lives. We need to ban it.”