Candidates Bash Trump for Skipping Debate – Rolling Stone

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The tone of the second Republican primary debate can best be summed up with a slip of the tongue from Vivek Ramaswamy: “Thank you for speaking while I’m interrupting.”

Over two chaotic, loud, and often unintelligible hours, seven candidates appeared onstage for a second round of jabs between presidential hopefuls — who at this point are all still fighting for second place. Fox News once again hosted the debate, tapping Stuart Varney, Dana Perino, and Univision’s Ilia Calderón as moderators. The trio struggled to maintain any semblance of control over the proceedings. 

Donald Trump once again declined to participate, instead traveling to Michigan to host a rally at a non-union auto parts supplier and make a pitch to blue collar workers as autoworkers continue to strike.

Despite his absence, the GOP frontrunner was bashed like a piñata by some of his opponents who — in a reversal from the first debate — now seem eager to take swipes at the former president. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s been struggling to maintain his runner-up position in the polls and has largely refrained from directly criticizing the former president, said that Trump “is missing in action.”

“He should be on this stage tonight. He owes it to [voters] to defend his record, where [his administration] added 7.8 trillion to the debt that set the stage for the inflation that we have now.” 

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spoke directly to Trump. “Donald, I know you’re watching. You can’t help yourself,” he said, staring directly into the camera. “I know you’re watching, and you’re not here tonight. And not because of polls, and not because of your indictments — you’re not here tonight because you’re afraid of being on this stage and defending your record.” 

“You’re ducking these things, and let me tell you what’s going to happen. You keep doing that, no one up here is going to call you Donald Trump — we’re gonna call you Donald Duck.” 

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who experienced a significant polling bump after her performance in the first debate, also took a swipe at the former president. Haley criticized Trump’s policy toward China, telling the audience that the former president had prioritized trade with the nation while ignoring national security concerns like their outsized purchase of farmland, their production of fentanyl, theft of intellectual property, and their espionage efforts against the United States. 

The topics the moderators were able to actually get through — by way of reminders that repeated interruptions eat up time — covered a slew of Republican culture war obsessions. Questions about ending birthright citizenship, TikTok, and the rights of transgender people were peppered among the current staples of Republican politics like immigration, education, bashing sustainable energy, and barely disguising their disdain for unions. 

On the current strikes by the United Auto Workers Union, Ramaswamy declared that while he sympathizes with workers, he doesn’t “have a lot of patience for union bosses.” Former Vice President Mike Pence bashed President Joe Biden’s appearance at a UAW picket line earlier this week. “Joe Biden does not belong on a picket line. He belongs on the unemployment line,” he said. 


In a parallel of the chaos of the first debate, Ramaswamy also caught several strays from fellow candidates. After being asked how he justified joining TikTok and appearing in a promotional video with influencer Jake Paul given national security concerns about the social media platform, Ramaswamy attempted to tout his youth as an asset with young voters. Haley was not having it. “TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media apps that you could have,” Haley said, pointing to concerns raised by legislators regarding data security on the app. “Honestly, every time I hear you I feel a little bit dumber,” she added. 

Trump made clear from Michigan that he remains unimpressed by the antics of his opponents. The former president told attendees that he doesn’t see any of the other candidates as viable picks for his running mate. “We’re competing for the job candidates,” he said. “They’re all running for a job.”

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