“2024 GOP Debate Showdown: Trump’s Absence, Abortion Rifts, and DeSantis’s Struggle for the Spotlight – Who Emerges as the Trump Challenger?”

Even though Trump will be skipping the California debate in favor of a rally in Michigan, seven Republicans aiming to be their party’s top challenger to Donald Trump in the 2024 race may attempt to make the former president the focal point of their second primary debate.

The following politicians are scheduled to speak Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former Vice President Mike Pence, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

The debate, which is set for 9 p.m. ET and will be hosted by Fox Business and Univision, ushers in a new stage in the GOP primary as the field of contenders shrinks from eight to seven — the former governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, was not included. For the third match in November, higher qualification standards and further cuts are anticipated.

The following six items should be observed during the debate on Wednesday:

Where is Trump?

Trump won’t be in Simi Valley on Wednesday night despite Christie’s best efforts to persuade him to do so, telling him to “show up” and “stop being a coward,” choosing instead to deliver a prime-time speech to current and former union members in Michigan.

Trump’s attempt at counterprogramming demonstrates how he and many others see the current GOP primary: that he has nothing to gain by supporting the other contenders before a campaign that is obviously his to lose.

In South Carolina on Monday, the former president referred to the debates as “stupid” and targeted President Joe Biden rather than other Republicans, who had traveled to Wayne County, Michigan on Tuesday to join striking United Auto Workers workers on the picket line.Trump has no need for anxiety, according to longtime Republican strategist and Trump opponent Mike Murphy, who told CNN this week that his speech is unlikely to overshadow the GOP debate.

The only advantage Trump has, according to Murphy, is that none of his rivals are planning to overthrow him. None of his significant ones. They are merely impersonating Trump.

large differences on abortion

Trump recently criticized the stringent anti-abortion laws that are in place in states that are controlled by the GOP, which may have caused the biggest policy rift in the party.

Trump won’t appear on stage to defend his recent claims to NBC News that restrictions on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, like the one enacted by Florida under DeSantis, are “terrible” and that some conservatives “speak very inarticulately” about the subject. Trump, who paved the way for Roe v. Wade’s overturn by appointing three conservative Supreme Court justices.

However, his remarks provided opponents vying for attention with a fresh opportunity to attack the former president from his right flank, and several have already pounced.

“This is not the candidate from 2016,” He is currently criticizing the pro-life cause. DeSantis claimed on a Tuesday morning radio broadcast in eastern Iowa that “he is attacking states that passed pro-life protections that had support.”

It’s also a stick that some of the socially conservative contenders, like Pence and Scott, who both support federal prohibitions on abortion after 15 weeks, have suggested they could use to discredit opponents during debates. Haley, who has minimized the political viability of additional federal abortion restrictions, may be one of their targets.

Republicans may alienate a sizable portion of the November 2024 electorate by sprinting right on abortion, according to the results of the 2022 midterm elections, ballot measures pertaining to abortion in red states, and off-year races like the Wisconsin Supreme Court election this spring. However, it might be a method for primary candidates looking to stand out from the pack as the greatest Trump challenger to appeal to the social conservatives who control the Iowa caucuses, which will launch the GOP presidential nomination process in January.

File: Asa Hutchinson, a former governor of Arkansas, Chris Christie, a former vice president, Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and North Dakota governor Doug Burgum take the stage prior to a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by FOX News Channel on August 23, 2023, in Milwaukee.

How’s it going for Ron DeSantis?

The Florida governor was seen by many Republicans as the party’s greatest chance of unseating Trump just a few months ago.

In a recent CNN/University of New Hampshire primary poll in the Granite State, DeSantis is currently in the middle of the pack with the first primary votes just around the corner. He is roughly tied with Haley, Ramaswamy, and Christie.

DeSantis cut an inconspicuous figure during the first GOP debate this month, even with Trump absent, which raised more questions about his political savvy and ability to carry Florida’s conservative vote to the national level.

DeSantis, though, will once more be in the spotlight and subject to close examination from concerned contributors on Wednesday in California. Trump’s absence, like it was at the Milwaukee debate, gives the governor another opportunity to stand out without fear of being overshadowed or criticized by the previous president.

If “now or never” for DeSantis is not the situation, it is certainly getting close.

Once more, it’s Ramaswamy versus the world.

Ramaswamy, who successfully established himself as the evening’s main character with a showman’s attitude and willingness to spar with Christie, Pence, and Haley, who all came out with ire trained on the youngest candidate in the field, benefited more than any other candidate from Trump’s absence from the first debate.

Ramaswamy elevated himself as the Trump doppelganger, a nonconformist voice on a platform with primarily conventional speakers, and appeared unscathed after those exchanges.

Who else will attempt to challenge the Ohio businessman this time? was the question before Wednesday night’s event.

Since Christie is infamous for obliterating less charismatic debate participants, the possibility of his doing the same to Ramaswamy may not be particularly tempting to some. But Ramaswamy will probably be hoping for a confrontation once more and the opportunity to rule the post-debate analysis.

DeSantis in particular has an incentive to make an effort to reduce the attraction of the tech entrepreneur and his growing affinity for a MAGA constituency that both would like to win over. It’s less clear, however, whether he is quick enough to prevail in a competition.

Haley focuses on Trump

Haley is focusing on Trump’s conservative credentials rather than his behavior as she attempts to establish herself as a serious challenger to the outgoing president.

A small wave of enthusiasm from the first debate in Milwaukee accompanies Haley to California, where she will face a new challenge in trying to stand out from the competition and improve her performance.Haley has also been speaking more and more about Trump, who she served as US ambassador to the UN under.

Haley was at the center of a bitter foreign policy battle with Ramaswamy and a passionate argument over abortion policy with Pence at last month’s debate. A harsh condemnation of his fiscal and spending practices has given way to a more comprehensive evaluation of his suitability for office.

The former governor of South Carolina has been testing some of those anti-Trump sayings at town hall meetings. Late last week, she told a New Hampshire voter that Trump was “thin-skinned and easily distracted.” She also said he “got weak in the knees when it comes to Ukraine.”

Would her opponents attempt to obstruct her rise by concentrating more on how her views on foreign policy coincide with the current attitude among the party’s base, even as some moderate Republicans have given her their support as a result of that assessment?

The Reagan shadow

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is a renowned setting for the debate on Wednesday.

GOP presidential debates were held in the 40th president’s library in 2008, 2012, and 2016. And without Trump, a number of candidates might try to capitalize on the Gipper’s aura by using the imposing background of the magnificent library.

Haley has been studying some of Reagan’s memorable quotes.

Scott explicitly compared himself to Reagan in a fundraising email to his supporters as he fought to stand out with his upbeat message amidst the commotion of the first debate. Its first statement, “America is at a time for choosing,” brought to mind Reagan’s 1964 speech in support of Republican nominee Barry Goldwater, which catapulted the former actor into the political spotlight.

It’s unclear whether Reagan still resonates with voters in a party that has recently abandoned many of his values.

In a recent interview with CNN, Pence, who has often talked about how Reagan helped him become a conservative, stood by his 2016 comparison of Trump to Reagan.

Many people thought his choice of me, a conservative activist who had been around since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, was proof of his sincerity, he claimed.

Pence asserted that the former president has subsequently departed from these ideals, though. He has admonished the party to stay clear of populist “imitators.”

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