Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, along with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence, launched a series of attacks against former President Donald Trump during the second GOP debate. Christie referred to Trump as “Donald Duck” due to his absence from the debate stage. The criticism towards Trump was intensified by his decision to hold a competing event in Detroit, where autoworkers are currently on strike. The candidates emphasized Trump’s refusal to attend the debate as a sign of his fear in defending his record and avoiding scrutiny.
During the debate, the candidates targeted Trump in three key areas. Christie and DeSantis criticized Trump for not showing up, while also highlighting the expansion of the national debt during his presidency. Pence denounced Trump’s plans to increase executive powers if elected for a second term. They also took aim at Trump’s handling of pro-life issues and his vision for consolidating power in Washington, contrasting their own positions of favoring small government. Overall, the candidates sought to diminish Trump’s influence and call attention to perceived flaws in his record and character.
These attacks represent a shift from the first debate, where Trump was rarely mentioned, let alone criticized. The candidates had previously expressed support for Trump as the nominee. However, in this second debate, they seized the opportunity to challenge Trump on various fronts, reflecting a growing unease within the Republican Party regarding his leadership and policies.