Simi Valley, California—— Republicans hold the second presidential debate on Wednesday as Donald Trump’s primary rivals seek to undermine the former president, who is so confident of sailing through the party’s primaries that he won’t face them again Speech on the same stage.
Seven Republican candidates attend an event hosted by Fox Business Network at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. Trump delivered a prime-time speech in Michigan that stretched into the debate as he sought to capitalize on a strike by the auto workers union and try to appeal to rank-and-file union members in key states that could help decide the outcome of the election. Popular suffrage.
The debate comes at a critical moment in the Republican campaign, less than four months before the Iowa caucuses officially kick off the presidential nominating process. For now, Trump dominates the field even as he faces a series of vulnerabilities, including four criminal charges that could land him in prison for decades.
Trump made only passing mention of the debate in his speech, drawing boos when he said “we’re competing with job seekers” and mocking them for not drawing crowds as large as his. The former president’s rivals are running out of time to chip away at his lead, creating a sense of urgency among some to take on the former president more directly in front of millions of viewers.
“This is not a nomination that’s going to fall to you,” said Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist and veteran of Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. to defeat other candidates, and one of them happens to be Donald Trump.” event. “The debate will be interesting to see if people realize that sand is moving through the hourglass very quickly now.”
Even hours before the event began in Simi Valley, about 40 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, the first arriving campaign supporters waved Trump flags and erected banners that read, “Trump , our last hope for America and the world.”
It underscored the former president’s continued influence in debates in which he did not participate. Trump also skipped last month’s first debate in Milwaukee, where attendees fought with each other while mostly avoiding attacking Trump. Regardless, nearly 13 million people tuned in.
Former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley is drawing bigger audiences and new interest after her first debate performance, in which she attacked entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy Vivek Ramaswamy’s foreign policy and emphasized that she was the only woman in the field.
Her team had raised expectations ahead of Wednesday night, telling donors in a recent pitch that they were “ready to capitalize on the momentum” after Nikki steps off the stage.
“As more and more voters across America tune in to watch the second debate, this will be a great opportunity to bring even more supporters on board,” Haley’s campaign manager Betsy Ankney said in an email. the email read.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is also looking to have a big night, taking center stage despite his recent efforts to emerge as the field’s top alternative to Trump. His campaign announced that he also saw an increase in fundraising after the first debate, but Wednesday’s strong performance may need to be replicated.
“It’s too late to just do well,” said Kristina Matthews, a national Republican pollster. “DeSantis has gone from being the leading alternative to Trump to one of the challengers, and he’s going to face performance pressure.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Ramaswamy are also looking for breakout moments. Ramaswamy has often been in the spotlight in Milwaukee but has been criticized by many candidates who have sought to expose his lack of political experience.
Also on stage were North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who campaigned on criticizing Trump.
Another Trump critic, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, failed to qualify after the first debate. He also traveled to the Detroit suburbs and said: “Donald Trump came to Detroit tonight because he wanted to avoid the debate.”
The site is symbolic given that Reagan has long been a Republican icon whose words and key moments still influence Republican politics today. But in addition to feuding with leaders of the Reagan library, Trump reshaped the Republican Party and pushed it away from Reagan.
President Joe Biden is attending a fundraiser off the coast of Northern California. His reelection campaign spent days of counter-planning in California seeking to label Trump and his followers in the Make America Great Again movement as too extreme. The state’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, an outspoken public figure in Biden’s reelection campaign, called the debate little more than entertainment for political junkies because Trump holds a commanding lead in the primary.
“By any objective measure, this is a sideshow,” Newsom told The Associated Press. “You have a de facto incumbent.”
Newsom added that the dispute is a “JV, XFL thing.”
Weissert reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.