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Seven Republican presidential hopefuls gathered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California on Wednesday night to participate in the second GOP presidential primary debate of the 2024 election cycle.
Debate participants included Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, author and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Candidates were required to meet polling and fundraising thresholds in order to be eligible to participate in the debate.
Former President Donald Trump, who remains the clear primary frontrunner, skipped the event on Wednesday night after previously skipping the first GOP presidential primary debate last month. Trump delivered a speech in Michigan on Wednesday night.
During the debate, DeSantis and Christie called out Trump for skipping the event and for the trillions of dollars of debt the U.S. piled on during his White House tenure.
"Donald Trump is missing in action. He should be on this stage tonight," DeSantis declared. "He owes it to you to defend his record where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt. That set the stage for the inflation that we have."
Later during the event, Christie looked directly into a camera and addressed Trump, claiming that the former president skipped the debate because he is "afraid" of appearing at the event and defending his record. "You're ducking these things," he said, adding that if Trump continues to do so, people will call him "Donald Duck."
Pence said that as president he would approach Congress about passing "a federal expedited death penalty for anyone involved in a mass shooting" so perpetrators "meet their fate in months, not years."
Haley blasted Ramaswamy, telling him, "every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say."
Later during the debate Ramaswamy advocated for reducing "the federal employee headcount by 75%."
DeSantis said that he rejects the notion "that pro-lifers are to blame for midterm defeats."
At the end of the debate, Dana Perino, who was one of the debate moderators, said that if all the candidates on the stage remain in the race, Trump will clinch the GOP presidential nomination. She instructed the candidates to write down which of their competitors on the stage "should be voted off the island." The candidates declined to do so.
The next GOP presidential primary debate is slated to take place in Miami, Florida in November.
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Alex Nitzberg is a staff writer for Blaze News.