The second Republican presidential debate is set to take place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, with seven GOP candidates in attendance. However, front-runner Donald Trump has once again decided not to share the stage with his rivals, instead opting to deliver a prime-time speech in Michigan. As the Iowa caucuses draw nearer, Trump’s dominance in the GOP race is causing a sense of urgency among his competitors to directly challenge him. Some candidates, such as Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, are hoping for breakout moments during the debate to boost their campaigns. The debate is seen as an opportunity for other candidates to make up ground, as Trump is perceived to be taking his lead for granted.
The absence of Donald Trump from the Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is notable, given that Reagan is considered a Republican icon. While Reagan promoted a muscular foreign policy and opposed Moscow, Trump has expressed sympathy towards Russian President Vladimir Putin and has even said that he was the apple of Putin’s eye. Former Vice President Mike Pence has called on conservatives to reject Trump’s “siren song of populism,” but entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy criticized Pence during the first debate, arguing that Reagan would not be able to secure the Republican nomination in today’s Trump-dominated party. Some Republicans, like former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, feel that Reagan’s policy positions are no longer aligned with the current Republican party.
The upcoming debate has become a crucial moment in the GOP campaign, with candidates running out of time to dent Trump’s lead. Those attending the debate are seeking breakout moments to gain momentum in their campaigns, while Trump is trying to appeal to rank-and-file union members in Michigan. The absence of Trump also presents an opportunity for other candidates to make up ground and challenge Trump’s dominance. However, Trump’s absence also highlights the divergence between his policy positions and those associated with Ronald Reagan, forcing some Republicans to question whether Reagan would secure the nomination if he were running in today’s political landscape. Overall, the debate is expected to intensify the competition among candidates and generate more interest in the race.