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The second GOP debate will kick off much like the first: Without Trump. Follow live updates

As Republicans take the stage in California, the Democratic National Committee is running counterprogramming around the debate site

The Associated Press
Thursday 28 September 2023 00:46 BST
Election 2024 Debate
Election 2024 Debate (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Follow along for live updates on the second 2024 Republican presidential debate, which begins at 9 p.m. ET in California. The field's early front-runner, Donald Trump, is skipping the event, just as he did the first. He'll be 2,000 miles away trying to woo union workers in Michigan amid a labor strike.

The candidates on stage will be Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

What to know

— 7 candidates qualified for the second debate. Here’s who missed the cut — Here's how to watch tonight's debate — Republicans face growing urgency to stop Trump ahead of debate — Trump heads to Michigan to compete with Biden for union votes — Who’s running for president? See a rundown of the 2024 candidates

Taking their criticism to the skies

As Republicans take the stage, the Democratic National Committee is running counterprogramming around the debate site aiming to make its case that the GOP hopefuls are wrong for the White House.

DNC officials say they’re flying an aerial banner until the 9 p.m. start time above Ronald Reagan's presidential library with the message “GOP 2024: A Race For The Extreme MAGA Base” — referring to a slogan used by Trump in his campaigns.

Party officials say there’s also a mobile billboard making a route around the debate site throughout the event. A video playing on a digital screen features a “2024 MAGA Cheat Sheet” on each of the hopefuls, with each Republican candidate’s photo and several bullet points on what the DNC calls their “extreme MAGA agendas,” like opposition to abortion and proposed changes to Social Security and Medicare.

Debate livestreaming partner Rumble platforms extremism

Many viewers who can’t watch Wednesday’s debate on TV will tune in on Rumble, the Republican National Committee’s exclusive online livestreaming partner.

The alternative video sharing platform has gained popularity with some conservatives for its hands-off approach to content moderation. But it also has been criticized for allowing — and at times promoting — far-right extremism, bigotry, election disinformation and conspiracy theories.

Ahead of the first GOP debate last month, the live feed for the GOP’s official pre-show on Rumble was overridden with racial slurs and bigoted comments. The episode was then hidden from public view. The RNC said it was taken down to direct users to the debate livestream and avoid confusing viewers with multiple videos.

Asked about the criticism against the platform, the RNC said it condemns “hate, bigotry and violence" but does not manage content or pages outside of its own.

Newsom dismisses the debate as ‘JV, XFL stuff’

California Gov. Gavin Newsom says Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate without Trump is little more than entertainment for political junkies given Trump’s commanding lead in the Republican primary.

“This is a sideshow, by any objective measure,” Newsom told the Associated Press. “You’ve got a guy who’s the de facto incumbent." Trump indeed leads all other GOP contenders by at least 30 points in most national polls.

The debate, Newsom said, is “JV, XFL stuff.”

DeSantis will take literal center stage

DeSantis will be center stage again when candidates meet Wednesday for the second Republican presidential debate. He’ll be flanked by Ramaswamy and Haley.

The candidate placement on stage is based on candidate order in polls that meet standards set by the Republican National Committee, with higher performing candidates being closer to center stage.

Scott had hoped for a better position than the last debate and asked the RNC to change its rules so he would be closer to center. But the South Carolina senator is essentially in the same spot he was for last month’s debate. He will stand to Ramaswamy’s left.

The biggest loser in the reshuffling is Pence, who will stand at the far end of the stage. It’s a demotion for the former vice president, who stood next to DeSantis in August, and a sign of how he has struggled in the race.

Supporters and protesters await Trump at Michigan venue

As his Republican rivals make final preparations for their second primary debate, the contest’s front-runner is on his way to Michigan to speak to current and retired autoworkers in the midst of a strike.

“Heading to Michigan now. I LOVE, & WILL SAVE, THE AUTOWORKERS. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Trump wrote on his social media site.

A smattering of protesters and supporters demonstrated outside the venue before Trump arrived. One group of supporters carried Trump flags and marched to the beat of marching band drums.

Anti-Trump protesters accused the former president of backing anti-union policies and chanted, “Racist! Go home!”

Trump signs dot entrance to Reagan library

In case Trump wasn’t already top of mind for tonight’s debate participants, the former president’s supporters have set up huge Trump signs at the entrance to the Reagan library’s long driveway.

They include a bus-sized blue “TRUMP 2024” banner, several smaller red Trump “SAVE AMERICA” flags and a large white sign that reads “TRUMP, Our Last HOPE For AMERICA & THE WORLD.” They are positioned at the beginning of Simi Valley’s Presidential Drive, which is the only way in and out of the Reagan library.

As of 4:30 p.m. ET, none of the other campaigns had signs posted.

AI Asa aims to take part in debate night conversation

He won’t be on the Simi Valley debate stage Wednesday night, but former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson — or an AI version of him, anyway — is looking to be part of the conversation.

Hutchinson’s campaign has rolled out, where they say voters will be able to ask specific questions of the candidate. Hutchinson’s campaign says the interface has been programmed with his past public remarks, speeches and interviews to respond with his perspective on a variety of issues.

Hutchinson qualified for last month’s candidate debate debut but missed the markers set by the Republican National Committee for the matchup at Ronald Reagan's presidential library.

Biden raising campaign cash while GOP rivals debate

While Republicans prepare for tonight’s debate, the Democratic president that they’re hoping to replace will be raising money for his reelection campaign on the West Coast.

Joe Biden has a pair of fundraisers in San Francisco on Wednesday, a day after holding another one in Atherton.

“I’m optimistic that people in America know what’s at stake and they’re going to step up,” he told donors on Tuesday. Biden also said “I’m looking forward to the race.”

Biden’s visit to California is the second stop on his trip. He first visited Michigan, where he joined striking auto workers on the picket line, and he plans to head to Arizona, where he’s scheduled to give a speech on democracy.

Will immigration return to the debate stage?

The first Republican presidential debate devoted about 10 minutes to the U.S.-Mexico border, and the influx of asylum-seekers has only jumped since then.

Numbers are surging, with migrants now being housed at Chicago airports after police station lobbies filled with families in sleeping bags and nearly 6,000 migrants crossed the border in tiny Eagle Pass, Texas, in two days. Local officials from New York to San Diego sounded increasingly desperate cries for federal aid, as the Biden administration said it was making nearly 500,000 Venezuelans already in the United States eligible for temporary work permits.

Discussion of immigration in the first debate largely focused on building more border wall and, to varying degrees, supporting deployment of U.S. troops to Mexico to combat fentanyl trafficking.

A broadcasting first for a Republican debate

Television executives say Wednesday will mark the first time a Republican primary debate is broadcast in Spanish, with Univision airing it along with Fox Business.

The Spanish-language network has called this “an opportunity for Hispanic voters to hear directly from the candidates on issues that are important to them.”

Univision was not chosen for the GOP primary debates in 2015 after Republican National Committee officials said there were questions about whether the network was treating the party fairly. Later that year, Trump kicked the network’s famous news anchor Jorge Ramos out of a news conference after a question about his immigration plan. In 2020, Trump’s reelection campaign called the network a “leftist propaganda machine and a mouth piece for the Democratic party.”

Trump notably will be missing from Wednesday night's debate.

Trump plans prime-time speech to union workers in lieu of debate

The former president is scheduled to deliver prime-time remarks to union members in Michigan shortly before the second debate begins without him in California.

He will be giving a speech at 8 p.m. Eastern at Drake Enterprises, a non-unionized auto parts supplier in Clinton Township. He’ll speak before a crowd of several hundred current and former United Auto Workers members, as well as members of plumbers and pipefitters unions.

His visit comes a day after President Joe Biden became the first sitting president in U.S. history to walk a picket line as he joined UAW members in Detroit. The union has expanded its strike against Detroit automakers by walking out of spare-parts warehouses in 20 states across the country.

Trump will be seeking to position himself as an ally of blue-collar workers by promising to raise wages and protect jobs if elected to a second term. But union leaders say Trump’s record tells a different story. They cite unfavorable rulings from the nation’s top labor board and the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as unfulfilled promises of automotive jobs.

Reagan's library is the setting for the second GOP presidential debate

When seven presidential hopefuls gather at Ronald Reagan's presidential library for the second Republican debate, expect to hear homages to the “Great Communicator.”

The 40th president remains a hugely popular influence in today's Republican Party, and the candidates for the 2024 nomination frequently reference him in their speeches.

Former Vice President Mike Pence most often cites Reagan, noting his own pride in advising the Trump administration’s Supreme Court nominees “that sent Roe. v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs."

Hutchinson misses debate stage but vows to stay in race

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson will miss Wednesday's debate after failing to meet the criteria to participate. But he says he's not going anywhere.

In a statement after the candidate field was released Monday night, Hutchinson said he measures his success by the voter response he gets in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. He says his goal is to boost his polling numbers to 4% in one of those states before Thanksgiving.

“If that goal is met, then I remain competitive and in contention,” he wrote.

In lieu of the second debate, he is going to be in Detroit — the same city Trump is traveling to. He plans to hold a press conference to highlight what he says are the former president's “false promises to blue collar and union workers in Michigan and across America.”

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