Seven Republican presidential hopefuls took to the stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California for the second GOP primary debate — without frontrunner Donald Trump.
Despite missing the first debate and likely skipping the third, Trump’s advantage over his opponents has grown from 52% to 54%, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling average. He also leads his closest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, by nearly 40 points.
In case you missed it, here are three takeaways from the second GOP debate on Wednesday night:
DeSantis hits out at Trump
Knowing he needed to make a splash, DeSantis came out swinging against the former president, slamming him for not showing up to debate with his fellow candidates and defend his record.
“Donald Trump is missing in action. He should be on this stage,” DeSantis said.
When the topic turned to abortion, the Florida governor once against made it a point to knock Trump.
“The former president, who’s missing in action tonight, he’s had a lot to say about that,” he said. “He should be here explaining his comments — to try to say that pro-life protections are somehow a ‘terrible thing’? I want him to look into the eyes and tell people who have been fighting this fight for a long time.”
The abortion topic is one of controversy for both Republicans and Democrats but one the GOP does not want to give a firm answer to. Wednesday marked the first moment that DeSantis took a swipe at Trump, previously being worried over alienating supporters of a former president.
Christie gets his (bad) viral moment
We all know dad jokes are corny but no one told Chris Christie as he answered a question about Trump and used the moment to make a dad joke crack, earning him both cheers and boos.
Christie, Trump’s most outspoken critic, also spoke directly into the camera, calling out Trump for being scared to debate his colleagues and making one corny joke in the process.
“Donald, I know you’re watching. You can’t help yourself,” he said. “You’re not here tonight because you’re afraid to be on this stage and defending your record. You keep doing that, nobody up here’s gonna keep calling you Donald Trump; we’re gonna call you Donald Duck.”
“Donald Duck” was trending on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Ramaswamy vs. Haley Part II
For the second straight debate, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy traded barbs on everything from social media to funding for Ukraine. The first moment came when Ramaswamy defended his use of TikTok despite the app being owned by a Chinese company.
“This is infuriating because TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media apps that we can have,” she said. “Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.”
When it came to Ukraine, Ramaswamy said the U.S. should cut off money and Russia is not a threat to America.
“Just because Putin’s an evil dictator does not mean Ukraine is good,” he said.
“A win for Russia is a win for China,” Haley shot back. “I forgot, you like China.”