It was the night of nights and a show of shows. The second Republican debate featured it all – mudslinging, issue dodging, interruptions and scolding, bizarre confessions, and a particularly unimpressive new nickname for absentee GOP candidate Donald Trump.
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott rolled out his plan to create 10 million jobs in his first year by “unleashing energy resources” and restoring factory jobs. It was a problematic stance as experts observe that, currently, “energy resource” jobs account for just under 119,000 jobs in total. Those same experts are wary of predicting that factory jobs will ever reach their 1979 peak of 19 million nationwide. That’s a lot of jobs to pull out of thin air.
Scott was targeted by fellow South Carolinian Nikki Haley, former U.N. Ambassador, who pointed out that Scott’s Senatorial record had very few accomplishments to show. Scott took a moment to remind the audience that Haley requested an increase in gas taxes for her home state. Haley’s clever response was to point out that Scott had zero achievements under his belt.
For her part, Haley appeared laser-focused on China and used her spotlight to discuss Vivek Ramaswamy’s deep ties to China and what she considered Trump’s ineffective China policies. She also repeatedly claimed that Americans can’t trust Ramaswamy. The “Americans can’t trust you” theme continued throughout the evening as Haley and Ramaswamy sparred on stage. The battle culminated in Haley’s observation, “Every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.”
Ramaswamy took an opportunity to offend millions of people in the LGBTQ community by declaring that transgenderism is a mental health disorder. He defended his support of parental notification about a child’s gender “identity” by observing that these kids are generally “confused.” That stance will undoubtedly score big points among his conservative supporters and is one that is widely accepted, although seldom discussed, among his fellow candidates.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum’s performance in the second debate cemented his position as a non-contender. The invisible candidate attempted to make a stand but continued to interrupt and talk over his rivals until he was scolded by Fox News Host moderator Dana Perino, who threatened to cut off his microphone. The viewing audience was left to wonder who this candidate is and how he has remained in the candidate pool for this long. The invisible Burgum seems most notable for his lack of noteworthiness.
Burgum wasn’t the only candidate to interrupt his rivals. All the candidates played an active part in loudly talking over each other throughout the debate. Ramaswamy attempted to reel in Scott’s oversteps during his comments by mistakenly and confidently telling his rival, “Thank you for speaking while I’m interrupting.”
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie observed that the Biden administration is “sleeping” with teachers’ unions, to which former Vice President Mike Pence made a spectacularly disgusting observation that he had been sleeping with a teacher for 38 years. While the audience was left feeling the need for a shower following Pence’s unexpected and unwelcomed statement regarding his wife, Christie stole the show by delivering a dud of a new nickname for Trump, inexplicably calling him Donald Duck. This baffling comment proved that Trump is the true master of catchy nicknames and that Christie should stay in his lane on his scandalous New Jersey bridges.
Pence proved himself to be the master of deflection, redirecting nearly every question to an unoriginal bashing of Trump or an unrelated topic. He had a surprisingly good showing in the first debate but fell flat for the second.
Although Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wasn’t a strong presence on stage and he had nothing new to say, he was able to at least maintain his current plateau. He did, however, call out Trump for missing the debate, adding that the former president “owed it to America” to explain how his administration “added $7.8 trillion” to the national debt.
Despite all the infighting, the candidates refused to play Perino’s game of survivor when she asked them to write the name of a rival they would “vote off the island.”
The Republican debate was a circus of oddities, with bizarre nicknames, vocal chaos, and uncomfortable comments about relationships with teachers. Even in his absence, Trump’s presence loomed large, occupying prime real estate in every candidate’s mind. It’s evident that he’s still the clear frontrunner, despite never setting foot on the stage. Candidates calling for him to take part in future debates need to be careful what they wish for – last night proved that they would fall short in a head-to-head cage match against Trump.