Seven candidates met at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump skipped the debate to deliver a speech to auto workers in Detroit, Michigan.
DeSantis and Christie Take Aim at Trump
Donald Trump’s absence was a central theme. While Trump remains the leading Republican candidate, his decision to skip the debate was criticized by some contenders. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said, “Donald Trump is missing in action. He should be on this stage tonight. He owes it to you to defend his record.”
Both DeSantis and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie highlighted the soaring national debt, which surged by over $7 trillion under Trump’s tenure.
Fiery Discussion on Immigration
The pressing issue of immigration was deliberated at length. Chris Christie pledged enforcement of existing laws and proposed strengthening measures. He declared, “We want you here in this country to fill the 6 million vacant jobs we have. But only if you come here to follow the law and only if you come here legally.”
Nikki Haley clearly laid out her plans. She vowed to add an extra 25,000 Border Patrol and immigration enforcement jobs at the border.
Ramaswamy took a tougher stance. He pledged to universally deport all immigrants who arrive illegally, including their offspring. “If the kid of a Mexican diplomat doesn’t enjoy birthright citizenship, then neither does the kid of an illegal migrant who broke the law to come here,” Ramaswamy further emphasized.
Vivek Ramaswamy Under the Spotlight
Vivek Ramaswamy, despite being relatively new to the political stage, found himself in the spotlight multiple times. [Source]
The 38-year-old entrepreneur’s business dealings with the Chinese market attracted criticism. His defense was assertive: “You know what I did with my first company? We opened a subsidiary in China… We got the hell out of there.” Nikki Haley swiftly replied, “Yeah, right before you ran for president.”
Ramaswamy’s views on foreign policy were also noteworthy. Challenging the conventional narrative, he stated, “Just because [Vladimir] Putin’s an evil dictator does not mean Ukraine is good.” Haley, an experienced diplomat, sharply disagreed: “A win for Russia is a win for China,” and then provocatively added, “I forgot, you like Russia.”
On the topic of emerging technologies, Ramaswamy’s recent engagement with TikTok became a point of contention. The app, which has faced scrutiny due to security concerns, drew criticism from Nikki Haley: “TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media apps that we could have.”
Ramaswamy’s rationale for joining was to reach young Americans, but Haley remained unimpressed, remarking, “Honestly every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.”
DeSantis commented on Biden’s handling of foreign policy, especially regarding Ukraine. He stated that the Biden administration had been soft on Russia, leading to the current situation in Ukraine.
Chris Christie focused on Biden’s economic policies, suggesting that they had weakened the American economy. He further stated that Biden’s presidency has been “filled with broken promises.”
Ramaswamy addressed Biden’s domestic policies, claiming that they had led to increased inflation and a stagnating economy.
Dana Perino’s Exercise
The last segment of the debate was both revealing and contentious. Dana Perino introduced an unconventional exercise for the candidates. She asked them to write down which candidate on stage they would choose to vote “off the island.”
DeSantis opted out of this exercise, deeming it potentially disrespectful to his fellow candidates. In contrast, Christie was more direct. He said he’d vote Donald Trump “off the island” immediately.
Christie went on to argue that Trump has not only caused divisions within the Republican party but also disrupted family and friend relationships across the nation.
While Ramaswamy disagreed with Christie about Trump, he made a powerful statement that the “America fist agend” wasn’t exclusive to one individual but belonged to the American people.
With these statements, the debate concluded.