TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Seven candidates faced off in the second Republican primary debate of the 2024 presidential race on Wednesday – and we want to know who you think won.
As with the first debate, former President Donald Trump was absent. He skipped out on the event in favor of giving a speech in Michigan, where his chief political rival, President Joe Biden, recently joined a picket line of striking auto workers.
The GOP contenders are feeling the pressure to stop Trump, who is the clear frontrunner in the race. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was considered to be a serious a contender against Trump until recent months. His poll numbers began to dwindle as Republican voters rallied around Trump in the wake of his federal indictments.
DeSantis’ loss appears to be Vivek Ramaswamy’s gain. The political newcomer gained a few percentage points after the first primary debate, according to an average of polls by FiveThirtyEight, but he has yet to overtake DeSantis.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson appeared at the first GOP primary debate in Milwaukee, but did not qualify for Wednesday’s event.
Who do you think won the second primary debate? Cast your vote in the poll below:
Didn’t watch the debate? Here’s what you missed:
The debate started with questions about the United Auto Workers strike, but the Republicans kept the focus squarely on Biden.
The first question went to Scott, who caught criticism for saying “you strike, you’re fired” about the United Auto Workers dispute. Scott quipped that Biden “should not be on the picket line, he should be on the southern border,” turning the rest of his answer to concerns about border security.
Next up was Ramaswamy, who said the workers should “go picket in front of the White House in Washington, D.C.,” because “that’s really where the protest needs to be.”
Pence took a swing at it next. “Joe Biden doesn’t belong on the picket line. He belongs on the unemployment line.”
The candidates demonized the Biden administration’s support for electric vehicles. It’s a shift that is meant to limit the damages of climate change, but presidential candidates say it would hurt the U.S. auto sector and enrich China. The unanimity reflected the challenge candidates face to stand out on policy issues.
“Joe Biden’s Green New Deal agenda is good for Beijing and bad for Detroit,” Pence said.
Doug Burgum said unionized autoworkers are striking because their employers “need two-thirds less workers to build an electric car.”
Ramaswamy went to his refrain that he would “unlock American energy, drill, frack, burn coal, embrace nuclear energy.”
Christie created a new name for Trump — Donald Duck.
A former ally who broke with Trump over his election denial, Christie awarded the moniker to the absent Republican front-runner for skipping the debate.
Speaking into the camera, Christie said, “I know you’re watching” because “you can’t help yourself.” And he accused Trump of being absent because “you’re afraid of being on this stage and defending your record.”
“No one up here is going to call you Donald Trump anymore. We’re going to call you Donald Duck.”
A question about education took two uncomfortable and unexpected turns.
Saying that America’s public schools are “run by the teachers unions in this country,” Christie said U.S. schools would continue to struggle because, in his view, the Biden administration is too close to the unions.
“When you have the president that states sleeping with a member of the teachers union, there is no chance that you can take the stranglehold away from the teachers union every day,” Christie said.
In a later question, Pence chimed in, saying that he had been “sleeping with a teacher for 38 years” — but noting that his wife, Karen, is not a union member.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.