Still from the second 2024 Republican presidential debate
Video still from the second 2024 Republican presidential debate, televised by Fox

Strate­gists may hope the Repub­li­can Par­ty speaks with one voice in 2024, but mul­ti­ple voic­es shout­ed over one anoth­er and gen­uine dis­likes emerged as sev­en Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls held their sec­ond debate tonight on par­ty-aligned FNC at the Rea­gan Pres­i­den­tial Library in Simi Val­ley, California.

Rea­gan orig­i­nat­ed the par­ty’s famous 11th Com­mand­ment: “Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of any fel­low Repub­li­can.” It was dis­obeyed dozens of times tonight.

Ex-New Jer­sey Gov­er­nor Chris Christie said of fron­trun­ner Don­ald Trump, who delib­er­ate­ly skipped the debate: “He put $7 tril­lion on the nation­al debt and he should answer for that.” “Don­ald Duck,” as Christie called Trump, would rather “hide behind his golf clubs” that defend his days in office.

Gov­er­nor Ron DeSan­tis of Flori­da, who hoped to but has failed to attract Trump’s fol­low­ers, final­ly opened up on the ex-Pres­i­dent. Trump is “com­plete­ly miss­ing in action,” said DeSan­tis, and his eco­nom­ic poli­cies set the stage for today’s inflation.

After a strong Mil­wau­kee debate appear­ance, for­mer Unit­ed Nations Ambas­sador Nik­ki Haley came out like Mar­garet Thatch­er when Britain’s “Iron Lady” faced Ques­tions With­out Notice as Prime Min­is­ter in the House of Commons.

She went after entre­pre­neur Vivek Ramaswamy, a kind of Trump sub­sti­tute who drew atten­tion in the first debate.

Ramaswamy has embraced the Chi­nese-owned social media plat­form Tik­Tok, which he joined after call­ing it “dig­i­tal fen­tanyl” in ear­li­er appear­ances. Tik­Tok is banned from gov­ern­ment-issued devices, but Ramaswamy said it is a device for Repub­li­cans to chal­lenge Democ­rats’ hold on young voters.

“Every time I hear you, I feel a lit­tle dumb­er for what you say,” Haley shot back. She lat­er had Vivek twist­ing in knots try­ing to explain his past invest­ments in Chi­na, a coun­try he demo­nizes today. Ex-Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence chimed in: I’m glad Vivek pulled out of his busi­ness deal in Chi­na. That must have been about the same time you decid­ed to start vot­ing in pres­i­den­tial elections.”

Vivek made news in the first debate by describ­ing every­body else on the stage as cor­rupt. Tonight, he was evok­ing Reagan’s 11th Amend­ment and say­ing Repub­li­can hope­fuls should not start engag­ing in “per­son­al insults.”

Not like­ly, since the new­com­er is open­ly disliked.

Don­ald Trump prob­a­bly enjoyed hear­ing about the snip­ing in the debate.

He is far ahead in the polls and no clear rival emerged from the shout-fest. Christie even addressed him, say­ing of (and to) Trump: “He needs to be vot­ed off the island and he needs to be tak­en out of the process.”

Trump was speak­ing to sup­port­ers and strik­ing auto work­ers at a non-union busi­ness in Macomb Coun­ty, Michi­gan, one of the nation’s key swing areas.

With relent­less rep­e­ti­tion of the par­ty line, FNC has pro­duced a drilled, angry “dit­to­head” audi­ence. The debate saw devi­a­tions from the Fox com­fort zone.

Sen­a­tor Tim Scott of South Car­oli­na, the lone African-Amer­i­can Repub­li­can in the Sen­ate, ques­tioned DeSan­tis about changes to black his­to­ry in Florida’s school cur­ricu­lum, which crit­ics say has air­brushed the expe­ri­ence of slav­ery and Jim Crow racism in America.

“That’s a hoax that was per­pe­trat­ed by (Vice Pres­i­dent) Kamala Har­ris,” DeSan­tis shot back, say­ing African-Amer­i­can schol­ars craft­ed his much crit­i­cized les­son plans, and flub­bing the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of Har­ris’ name. DeSan­tis was bet­ter onstage than in Mil­wau­kee. The Flori­da gov­er­nor tried to stitch in rehearsed sto­ries of vot­er encoun­ters on the cam­paign trail, but awkwardly.

Oppo­si­tion to envi­ron­men­tal poli­cies of the Biden-Har­ris Admin­is­tra­tion has become Fox and Repub­li­can doc­trine. Even DeSan­tis has had to dis­count cli­mate dam­age as a fac­tor in inten­si­fy­ing hur­ri­canes that hit Flori­da. Pence said he would “unleash” the ener­gy indus­try and open fed­er­al lands to drilling. “Joe Biden’s Green New Deal agen­da is good for Bei­jing and bad for Detroit,” said the ex-veep. “We ought to repeal the Green New Deal.” DeSan­tis, a Horowitz on the sound bite key­board, promised an ener­gy pol­i­cy of “Mid­land over Moscow.”

The Green New Deal cham­pi­oned by pro­gres­sive lead­ers has nev­er been enact­ed and Biden has nev­er announced sup­port for it. Nev­er mind.

The aggres­sive Haley attacked DeSan­tis as a clos­et green. She upbraid­ed DeSan­tis for being “against frack­ing and against drilling,” stands he has tak­en as a state whose beach­es draw tourists from around the world.

Pol­i­cy did come into play. DeSan­tis took a dovish stand on Ukraine, say­ing: “It’s in our best inter­ests to end this war.” Ramaswamy demo­nized Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent Vladimir Zelen­sky in words that could have been broad­cast on Radio Moscow. Haley shot back that “a win for Rus­sia is a win for Chi­na,” allud­ing to China’s designs on Tai­wan. Christie spoke of “the naivete of some peo­ple on this stage,” adding: “If we give him (Putin) any of Ukraine, next will be Poland.”

There were out­right false­hoods, such as Scott charg­ing that as U.N. Ambas­sador Haley “lit­er­al­ly spent $50,000 on cur­tains.” His researchers got it wrong. It was $52,000, spent by the State Depart­ment dur­ing the Oba­ma administration.

The can­di­dates were togeth­er on cer­tain themes.

All of them demo­nized NEA and AFT (the two major unions rep­re­sent­ing edu­ca­tors), depict­ing Biden as a union stooge and one mar­ried to a teacher for thir­ty-two years. (Dr. Jill Biden teach­es com­mu­ni­ty col­lege students.)

But Pence, while endors­ing vouch­ers and char­ter schools, allowed that he has “been sleep­ing with a teacher for thir­ty-eight years.” (He calls her “Moth­er.”)

Fox faith­ful could take com­fort in denun­ci­a­tions of “rad­i­cal gen­der ide­ol­o­gy” and promis­es to ban gen­der tran­si­tion surgery for teenagers.

Like­wise, every­body agreed that crime should be punished.

DeSan­tis wants to send U.S. troops into Mex­i­co after drug traf­fick­ers. Pence is all for an expe­dit­ed death penal­ty for mass killers.

Nobody men­tioned gun safe­ty legislation.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Adjacent posts

One reply on “Republican rivals bash Trump and each other in party’s second 2024 presidential debate”

Comments are closed.