Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took aim at former President Donald Trump during the recent GOP debate, dubbing him “Donald Duck” because of his absence from the stage. Christie, along with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence, launched a series of attacks against Trump during the debate, criticizing him for not showing up and for his record on issues such as crime and the national debt. The criticism was particularly sharp because Trump had organized a competing event in Detroit, where autoworkers were on strike. The candidates also took aim at Trump’s plans to expand executive powers and his contribution to the growing national debt.
The second GOP debate marked a shift in tone towards Trump, in contrast to the first debate where he was barely mentioned and overall support for him was expressed. Christie, DeSantis, and Pence all highlighted Trump’s absence from the stage as well as his failure to address important issues. They attacked Trump for his lack of accountability and accused him of hiding behind his golf clubs. Additionally, Christie and DeSantis criticized the Trump administration for its contribution to the national debt, which increased by $7.8 trillion during his time in office. Pence further differentiated himself from Trump by advocating for a smaller federal government and a return of power to the states.
Overall, the GOP debate showcased a notable shift in the candidates’ stance towards Trump. Christie, DeSantis, and Pence seized the opportunity to criticize the former president for his absence and his record, particularly on issues such as the national debt and executive power. Their attacks point to a growing divide within the Republican party, as some candidates distance themselves from Trump and his policies. The absence of Trump from the debate stage allowed his opponents to freely critique his leadership and present themselves as alternatives to his brand of politics.