In a heated presidential debate, seven Republican candidates vying for the nomination clashed with one another, overshadowing former President Donald Trump who continues to lead in the polls. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took an aggressive stance from the start, challenging both Trump and President Biden on issues such as profligate spending and abortion. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie berated Trump for skipping previous debates, calling him “Donald Duck.” Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley aimed shots at her rivals, including DeSantis and Sen. Tim Scott, while business executive Vivek Ramaswamy became a primary target for criticism.
The candidates mainly focused on personal attacks rather than new policy positions, blaming Biden, “union bosses,” and liberals for various issues. Haley challenged DeSantis’s fracking policy and mocked his promises for his first day in the presidency. When Scott attempted to attack Haley’s record in South Carolina, she confidently replied, “Bring it, Tim!” The candidates also diverged on the issue of immigration, with some criticizing Biden for not securing the border and others debating birthright citizenship and the need for a border wall.
Overall, the debate was characterized by combative exchanges and interruptions, making it difficult for any candidate to be heard. DeSantis, who currently holds a distant second-place position, had the most to prove in the debate, but major donors remain skeptical of his chances given Trump’s continued popularity. Despite their efforts, the candidates struggled to gain attention and momentum amid the dominance of Trump in the race and their own internal disputes.