In the second 2024 Republican presidential primary debate, held in Simi Valley, California, the seven candidates sought to present themselves as a viable alternative to frontrunner Donald Trump, who chose not to participate. One notable moment came when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis criticized Trump for his absence, suggesting that he should have been on stage defending his record. DeSantis highlighted Trump’s contribution to increasing the national debt and the subsequent inflation. This bold move by DeSantis, who is currently trailing Trump in the polls, could either help or hinder his campaign, but it satisfied those of his supporters and donors who have been eager to see him take a stronger stance against the former president.
Prior to speaking, DeSantis waited patiently as the other candidates fielded questions on the economy. Unfortunately for him, this slow start could further negatively impact his already declining popularity. According to the most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, DeSantis trailed Trump by nearly 40 percentage points. Additionally, in key early-voting states like New Hampshire, he runs the risk of falling behind other candidates. While it is uncertain whether challenging the party’s most popular figure will ultimately benefit DeSantis, his assertive posture towards Trump is something that his supporters and donors have long hoped to see.
Overall, the second Republican presidential primary debate allowed the candidates to make their case as a viable alternative to Donald Trump. DeSantis made a significant impact by directly challenging Trump’s absence and criticizing his record on the national debt. While this move demonstrated a assertive posture and pleased his supporters, DeSantis still faces an uphill battle in catching up to Trump in the polls. Only time will tell whether his confrontation with Trump will help him gain traction or hinder his campaign.