Republicans Face Growing Urgency to Stop Trump As They Enter the Second Presidential Debate

Republicans are meeting for their second presidential debate on Wednesday as Donald Trump’s top rivals seek to blunt the momentum of the former president, who is so confident of cruising through the party’s primary that he again won’t share a stage with them.

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Seven GOP candidates will be at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for an event hosted by Fox Business Network. Trump will be in Michigan, delivering a prime-time speech attempting to capitalize on the Auto Workers Union strike and trying to appeal to rank-and-file union members in a key state for the general election.

The debate comes at a critical moment in the GOP campaign, with less than four months before the Iowa caucuses formally launch the presidential nomination process. For now, Trump is dominating the field even as he faces a range of vulnerabilities, including four criminal indictments that raise the prospect of decades in prison. His rivals are running out of time to dent his lead, which is building a sense of urgency among some to more directly take on the former president before an audience of millions.

“This is not a nomination that’s going to fall in your lap. You have to go and beat the other candidates and one of those happens to be Donald Trump,” said Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist and veteran of Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. “This debate, it’ll be interesting to see whether or not folks realize that the sand is going through the hourglass pretty quickly right now.”

Hours before the debate began, the first group of supporters for any campaign to arrive waved Trump flags and put up a banner reading “Trump, our last hope for America and the world,” underscoring the former president’s continued influence at a debate he’s not even attending. Trump also skipped the first debate last month in Milwaukee, where the participants laid into one another while mostly avoiding attacks on Trump. Nearly 13 million people tuned in anyway.

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, drew larger crowds and new interest after her first debate performance in which she attacked entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy on foreign policy and pointed out that she was the only woman in the field.

Her team has raised expectations even higher going into Wednesday night, telling donors in a recent pitch that they are “ready to capitalize on the momentum after Nikki walks off stage.”

“As more voters across America tune in to watch the second debate, it’ll be a great opportunity to bring even more supporters into the fold,” Haley’s campaign manager, Betsy Ankney, wrote in her email.

Also hoping for a big night is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who will be at center stage despite recent struggles to emerge as the field’s top Trump alternative. His campaign announced that he also saw a jump in fundraising after the first debate, but a strong performance on Wednesday will likely be necessary to replicate that.

“It’s too late for just a fine performance,” said Christine Matthews, a national Republican pollster. “DeSantis has gone from leading alternative to Trump to just one of the pack of challengers and he will be under pressure to perform.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Ramaswamy are similarly looking for breakout moments. Ramaswamy seized the spotlight frequently in Milwaukee, but was criticized by many candidates who sought to expose his lack of political experience.

Also on stage will be North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, who has built his White House bid around slamming Trump.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson failed to qualify after making the first debate. Hutchinson’s campaign says he’ll also go to Michigan to hold a press conference criticizing Trump.

Ahead of the debate, many participants were meeting with top supporters, donors and reporters to make the case that they are best positioned going forward.

Reed Galen, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, an organization founded by conservatives who oppose Trump, said that while he still believes the former president will ultimately be the Republican nominee in 2024, Wednesday’s debate offers a chance for others to make up ground.

“There are opportunities in the offing because Trump is taking this for granted,” Galen said.

The site is symbolic given that Reagan has long been a Republican icon whose words and key moments still shape GOP politics today. But in addition to fighting with the Reagan library’s leaders, Trump has reshaped the party and pushed away from traditional GOP policy positions — including a muscular foreign policy and opposition to Moscow.

While Reagan is remembered for going to a divided Berlin and calling on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” Trump has often sympathized with Russian President Vladimir Putin and recently said, “I was the apple of his eye.”

Pence, in a recent speech, called on conservatives to reject Trump’s “siren song of populism.” But Ramaswamy attacked Pence in the first debate by declaring “it’s not morning in America” — a reversal of Reagan’s famous 1984 campaign slogan — and saying Republicans following Reagan were out of step with a Trump-dominated party.

Click here to read the full article in AP News


  1. I see something in the future for Ramaswamy , and Bergum, but not 2024 POTUS. Ron D, put his career on the line (as warned) by submitting to rino puppeteers who in turn kicked him to the curb (as predicted) in search of another talking head. No one else on that stage would make a pimple on Trumps behind. What purpose would it serve to stray from the real purpose of campaigning against Biden gaining momentum for the General, instead of wasting precious time and resources on a silly FOX game of trying to degrade him.

  2. If the other candidates loved America they would drop their campaigns and support Trump in a gesture to show that opposing a Dem dictatorship means more to them than their personal career.

    It’s time to unite and avoid becoming a Banana Republic.

  3. Robin Itzler - Patriot Neighbors says

    Instead of attacking, attacking, attacking Joe Biden on inflation, Ron DeSantis went after Donald Trump.

    Ron DeSantis during debate:
    “…Donald Trump is missing in action. He should be on this debate stage tonight. (Applause) He owes it to you … (Applause) … to defend his record, where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt. That set the stage for the inflation that we have.”

    Joe Biden posted that clip on his Twitter/X account and added:
    “Couldn’t agree more.”


  4. The only way Trump is not going to have the Republican nomination is if he is somehow prohibited by law from running (e.g., I believe a convicted felon can’t serve), or else has a medical issue. The second debate was a joke with everyone talking over each other like little kids. Trump is not going to solve all the problems in this country — no one can do that – even though he would do a much better job trying than Biden. Even if Republicans take the House and Senate they are so busy fighting one another that nothing really important gets passed (see 2016). The country will soon be bankrupt –already 50% of its income goes to pay interest on the national debt, yet a politician can’t make anyone happy if he/she doesn’t spend trillions more while in office. So figure Trump-Haley – Haley can win the election because of her logical and moderate stance on abortion.

    • Glenn J Sheppard says

      “…yet a politician can’t make anyone happy if he/she doesn’t spend trillions more while in office.” I am unhappy with the Republican approach to federal budgets. I see very limited effort at reducing spending and dealing with social security and medicare impending crash (about 2035). I never heard Prez Trump say much about the deficits. And he definitely didn’t want to go near the SS/MC trainwreck.
      The basic issue is we the people like deficits and $33+ trillion operational debt. This doesn’t count the SS/MC $100+ trillion off-the-books debt.

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