The second Republican debate took place on Wednesday, September 28, 2023, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
On Wednesday night, seven Republican candidates took the stage for their second debate of the 2024 presidential campaign.
The candidates discussed a range of issues, including the economy, immigration, and foreign policy.
The contenders of the debate were:
- Doug Burgum, Governor of North Dakota
- Chris Christie, former Governor of New Jersey
- Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida
- Nikki Haley, former Governor of South Carolina
- Mike Pence, former Vice President
- Vivek Ramaswamy, biotech entrepreneur and political commentator
- Tim Scott, Senator from South Carolina
Former President Donald Trump and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson were both absent from the debate.
Trump, who skipped the first debate as well, delivered a speech at an auto parts manufacturer northeast of Detroit. Hutchinson, who qualified for the first debate, did not meet the polling and fundraising criteria to participate in the second debate.
Here are some of the key moments from the debate:
DeSantis Responds to Harris' 'Hoax' About Black History Curriculum
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis responded to Vice President Kamala Harris' accusation that Florida is teaching students that "enslaved people benefited from slavery."
"That is a hoax that was perpetrated by Kamala Harris," DeSantis said. "We are not going to be doing that."
DeSantis also emphasised that the curriculum was written by "descendents of slaves" and that "Florida represents the revival of American education."
"We're ranked No. 1 in the nation in education by U.S. News and World Report," he said. "We have eliminated critical race theory, and we now have American civics and the Constitution in our schools in a really big way. Florida is showing how it's done. We're standing with parents, and our kids are benefiting."
Harris had accused Florida of teaching students how "enslaved people benefited from slavery," referring to the curriculum's description of "how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit."
However, DeSantis defended the curriculum, saying that it is important to teach students about the "full history" of slavery, including the skills that enslaved people developed despite their oppression.
"We're not going to whitewash history," he said. "We're going to teach the truth."
The debate over Florida's black history curriculum is part of a larger national conversation about how to teach about race and racism in schools. Some people argue that it is important to teach students about the full history of slavery, while others argue that this can be traumatic and harmful to students.
GOP Candidates Clash Over US Support for Ukraine
In a sharp exchange during the Republican presidential debate, the candidates clashed over the United States' ongoing support for Ukraine amid Russia's invasion.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said it is in America's interest to end the war, while Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina said that "degrading the Russian military" is in the United States' "national vital interest."
Ramaswamy Targeted Again in Second Republican Debate
Vivek Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur and political commentator, said it is time to "level with the American people" about Ukraine, adding that "just because [Vladimir] Putin's an evil dictator does not mean Ukraine is good."
Nikki Haley, interjected, saying, "A win for Russia is a win for China," adding, "I forgot, you like Russia."
Mike Pence, said he supports continued Ukraine aid, adding that "peace comes through strength."
Chris Christie, a former New Jersey governor, said of Russia, "If we give them any of Ukraine, next will be Poland."
The exchange highlighted the stark differences in opinion among Republicans on the issue of Ukraine.
Vivek Ramaswamy, the 38-year-old biotech entrepreneur, was once again targeted by the other candidates, with his rivals attacking his business record.
"Last debate, he said we were all 'bought and paid for' and I thought about that for a little while, and said, you know, I can't imagine how you can say that knowing that you were just in business with the Chinese Communist Party and the same people that funded Hunter Biden [with] millions of dollars was a partner of yours as well," said Senator Tim Scott.
Ramaswamy called the accusation "nonsense" and said he pulled his company out of the Chinese market while other companies were expanding there.
"You know what I did with my first company? We opened a subsidiary in China. But you know what I did that was different than every other company? We got the hell out of there," he said.
"Yeah, right before you ran for president," replied former Governor Nikki Haley.
The exchange was one of several in which Ramaswamy was attacked by his rivals. Ramaswamy, who is seen as a rising star in the Republican Party, has been criticized for his lack of political experience and his unorthodox views on some issues.
Transgenderism and Parental Rights
During the debate, candidates were asked whether they would support a federal parental bill of rights to ensure that students cannot change their gender identity without their parents being informed. Two of the candidates, Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy, said they would support such a bill.
Ramaswamy prefaced his answer by saying that "transgenderism, especially in kids, is a mental health disorder. We have to acknowledge the truth." He then went on to say that there is a huge amount of hypocrisy on the issue, as the same people who say that transgenderism increases the risk of suicide are also saying that parents do not have a right to know about this increased risk.
Ramaswamy also said that the fact that gender-dysphoric girls are allowed to get double mastectomies, and even hysterectomies, preventing them from having children in the future—which they might later regret—is "barbaric." He added that states have an obligation to protect parents' rights.
Pence also weighed in on the issue of parental rights, saying that he would stand up for the rights of parents and that "we're going to pass a federal ban on transgender chemical or surgical—surgery anywhere in the country." He said "We've got to protect our kids from this radical transgender ideology agenda."