Audience called it the ‘zen moment’ as participants spoke over each other at the second GOP debate.

The second debate of the 2024 Republican presidential primary, held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, witnessed seven candidates vying for the nomination.

The debate commenced with questions about the United Auto Workers strike, the imminent government shutdown, and immigration. Most of the candidates directed their criticisms towards President Biden and Washington politicians, refraining from direct attacks on each other.

Notably, former President Donald Trump, who remains the prominent frontrunner among Republicans, chose to skip the debate in favor of delivering a speech in Detroit.

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The initial GOP debate in August had featured several heated exchanges among the candidates, but it had failed to alter the fundamental dynamics of the race. No candidate had managed to challenge Trump’s dominance in the GOP primary polls.

Following a round of questions regarding the UAW strike, the moderators shifted their focus to the impending government shutdown. Governor DeSantis, speaking for the first time, seized the opportunity to criticize Trump for his absence from the debate.

“Donald Trump is noticeably absent,” DeSantis remarked in response to a query about whether populist Republicans were responsible for the potential shutdown. “He should have been on this stage tonight. He owes it to you to defend his record.”

DeSantis went on to critique Trump for adding over $7 trillion to the national debt during his presidency, a point that Governor Christie also emphasized.

“Donald Trump, he hides behind the walls of his golf clubs and refuses to appear here to answer questions,” Christie asserted. “He added $7 trillion to the debt, and he should be in this room to address those questions.”

Christie contended that blame for the shutdown should be placed on “everyone” in Washington, D.C., highlighting that elected officials were sent to the capital to perform a job they had been failing at for a considerable time. He asserted that if the government were to shut down, all those in Washington, D.C., would share responsibility.

Regarding the question of legalizing millions of immigrants living in the country illegally, Christie, New Jersey’s former Republican governor, stated that the United States was not in a position to undertake such an action. He emphasized the need to enforce immigration laws, citing a surge in illegal border crossings over the past two years.

“Our immigration laws are violated every day at the border,” Christie remarked. “And Joe Biden and his team are doing nothing to enforce those laws.”

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Christie pledged to deploy the National Guard to the U.S. southern border if elected, vowing to apprehend and return those who entered the country illegally.

The former governor also criticized Trump’s immigration record, asserting that he had failed to fulfill his promise to construct a border wall.

“Donald Trump also fell short in this regard. He pledged to build a wall along the entire border. He only built 52 miles of it and claimed that Mexico would foot the bill,” Christie remarked, downplaying the approximately 400 miles of new border wall structures constructed between 2017 and 2021. “If Mexico had known he was only going to build 52 miles, they might have paid for those 52 miles.”