Seven GOP presidential contenders took the stage on Sept. 27 to make their case for why they should face off against the Democratic nominee, likely current President Joe Biden.

Former South Carolina Gov. and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott took the stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California.

Skipping his second debate, GOP frontrunner former President Donald Trump, held a rally in Detroit to show solidarity with striking auto workers.

Early on, the debate got out of hand with stage participants talking over each other and seeking to dominate the discussion.

The moderators—Fox anchors Dana Perino and Stuart Varney, as well as Univision anchor Ilia Calderón—eventually regained control. But several minutes later, the debate turned chaotic again as the candidates talked over one another. The two-hour debate aired on Fox Business.

Topics in the first hour included the border crisis, crime, fentanyl, and education. Mr. Ramaswamy called the fentanyl crisis “bioterrorism,” while he and Mr. DeSantis both said they would use the U.S. military to respond to the crisis at the southern border.

Mr. DeSantis also supports the continued construction of a border wall. And in May, he signed a law requiring Florida employers with more than 25 employees to check their immigration status using E-Verify, a federal database.

Mr. Christie and Mr. DeSantis called out Mr. Trump for avoiding the debate and called on him to account for why he added trillions of dollars to the national debt. Along with Ms. Haley, the duo blame reckless spending for causing the current high inflation.

Rising Crime

On crime, Mr. Pence called for an expedited death penalty for mass shooters.
“I’m sick and tired of these mass shootings,” he said. “As president of the United States, I’m going to go to the Congress of the United States and we’re going to pass a federal expedited death penalty for anyone involved in a mass shooting so that they can meet their fate in months—not years.”

Mr. Pence cited the 2018 case of Nikolas Cruz, who shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Last year, Mr. Cruz, who pleaded guilty to all charges, was spared the death penalty as the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision to have him executed. Instead, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Mr. Christie called for U.S. attorneys to do their part in stopping lawlessness in cities. Mr. DeSantis said far-left prosecutors, who have come under fire for being soft on crime, should face civil rights lawsuits.

Mr. DeSantis was forced to defend the Florida school curriculum that critics have derided as teaching children that slaves benefited from their time in bondage.

He called it a “hoax that was perpetrated by [Vice President] Kamala Harris,” and said the curriculum was written by descendants of slaves.

“These are great black history scholars. So we need to stop playing these games,” Mr. DeSantis said.

“Here’s the deal. Our country’s education system is in decline because it’s focused on indoctrination, denying parents rights. Florida represents the revival of American education.”

Mr. Scott responded by saying, “There is not a redeeming quality in slavery.”

He went on to say that while blacks were discriminated against, “America is not a racist country. Never ever doubt who we are. We are the greatest country on God’s green earth.”

Mr. Scott has called education “the great equalizer in this country.” He supports cutting federal funding to any school that allows students to change their pronouns, gender markers, or has sex-based accommodations including locker rooms and bathrooms, without their parents’ consent.


Mr. Ramaswamy was confronted about joining TikTok, a social media app that has come under fire for its parent company’s close ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He defended his use of the app with a Machiavellian answer, saying the GOP needs to appeal to younger people.
Ms. Haley blasted Mr. Ramaswamy for using the app.

“Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say,” she said to him. Ms. Haley decried TikTok as a dangerous app in which the CCP is able to access the contacts of users.

In other areas, Mr. Ramaswamy has been outspoken about his criticism of the CCP, with a promise to introduce a “declaration of independence” from China should he become president.

Mr. Burgum said he has experience in shrinking the size of government, saying he has done so in North Dakota.

“If you have somebody that understands, because having worked in technology for 30 years, everything we had to do was to be better, faster, and cheaper the next day,” he said.

Mr. Burgum is a North Dakota native who built Great Plains Software into a technology giant that was purchased by Microsoft for $1.1 billion in 2001.

His second term as governor of the Peace Garden State ends in December 2024.

China, Ukraine

Mr. Christie, Ms. Haley, and Mr. Pence said that the United States should support Ukraine, while Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Ramaswamy urged an immediate halt of U.S. aid to Ukraine while simultaneously seeking a peace deal with Russia.
Mr. Christie underscored that China, Iran, and North Korea are providing economic and military support to Russia as it wages its war on Ukraine.

As such, he said, Russia needed to be stopped to prevent a cascade of conflicts led by authoritarian powers in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

“The Chinese are paying for the war in Ukraine,” Mr. Christie said.

“The fact of the matter is, we need to say right now that the Chinese–Russian alliance is something we have to fight against, and we are not going to solve it by going over and cuddling up to Vladimir Putin.”

Mr. DeSantis pledged to make the war in Ukraine a European problem, swearing to abandon the nation in order to ensure U.S. tax dollars go to U.S. causes.

“I will end this war,” he said. “We’re going to make the Europeans do what they need to do.”

Mr. Ramaswamy likewise suggested that the United States should halt security deliveries to Ukraine and cede occupied Ukrainian territory to Russia through a peace deal. Ukraine, he suggested, is simply not a good enough nation to support.

“Just because Putin is an evil does not mean Ukraine is good,” he said. “We need a reasonable peace plan to end this.”

Energy, Taxes

“We’re going to choose Midland over Moscow; the Marcellus over the Mullahs; the Bakken over Beijing,” said Mr. DeSantis, selling his America First agenda.
In May, DeSantis embarked on a multicountry tour to Japan, South Korea, Israel, and the United Kingdom to promote economic ties between Florida and those nations.

Ms. Haley said she believes “energy security is national security.”

She has criticized the November 2021 $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, saying, “There’s nothing to celebrate about a woke, bloated infrastructure law full of waste, labor union handouts, and green giveaways.”

Moments later, Mr. Scott criticized Ms. Haley for proposing to hike the gas tax in South Carolina in 2015 when she was governor. Ms. Haley said she would do it only in exchange for three times the deduction in income taxes. The plan never became reality.
As governor, Ms. Haley sought to eliminate corporate income taxes. In 2013 she signed an income tax rate cut for small-business owners on their earnings from 5 percent to 3 percent over a three-year period.
Mr. Scott is a proponent of cutting taxes and regulations. He has accused the IRS of auditing “those with the fewest resources to resist.”

Instead of closing statements, Ms. Perino asked the candidates to write down who should drop out of the race—as if the debate were an episode of “The Weakest Link.” However, the candidates refused to indulge the moderator, with Mr. DeSantis saying it would be disrespectful to those on stage. Mr. Christie said President Trump should be “voted off the island.”

Shutdown Looming

The debate took place as the U.S. government is on the verge of a shutdown with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) facing demands from his party’s Freedom Caucus, such as no more assistance to Ukraine, while trying to keep the gavel in the lower congressional chamber, which the GOP controls by just eight seats.
Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said earlier on Wednesday that debate is an opportunity “to share our diverse candidate field with the American people.”

“The Republican Party is united around one common goal–beating Biden.”

To have qualified for the second debate, candidates must have had a minimum of 50,000 unique donors—including 200 donors from 20 states or territories.

Additionally, to get onto the debate stage in California, candidates must have polled at least 3 percent in two national polls or 3 percent in one nationwide poll and two polls from different early voting states, including Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. All polls must be recognized by the RNC.

Finally, a notable requirement included signing a pledge to support the eventual party nominee and not run as an independent.

In the pledge, the candidates consent “to appear in only primary and general election debates that have been sanctioned by the Republican National Committee, pursuant to Rule 10(a)(11) of The Rules of the Republican Party. I acknowledge and accept that if I fail to sign this pledge or if I participate in any debate that has not been sanctioned by the Republican National Committee, I will not be eligible to participate in any further Republican National Committee-sanctioned debates.”

The pledge goes on to state: “Additionally, I affirm that if I do not win the 2024 Republican nomination for President of the United States, I will honor the will of the primary voters and support the 2024 Republican presidential nominee in order to save our country and beat Joe Biden.

“I further pledge that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party.”

Since the Aug. 23 debate, Ms. Haley has seen her poll numbers rise, while Mr. DeSantis’s numbers have declined. Polls from CNN and NBC News show Ms. Haley beating President Biden by more than a few percentage points.

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