GOP Candidates Hold Second Presidential Primary Debate

On September 27, 2023, the second Republican presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle took place.

Held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California, the debate featured North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum; former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley; former Vice President Mike Pence; businessman Vivek Ramaswamy; and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Former President Donald Trump, who opted not to attend the first debate, skipped the second as well.

The debate featured some mention of social issues like parental rights and the sanctity of life. Regarding parental rights, Ramaswamy correctly asserted that “‘parents have the right to know’” if their children are attempting gender transitions. Even more significantly, Ramaswamy showed political courage in stating that “‘transgenderism’ is a ‘mental health disorder.’” Former Vice President Pence expressed support for a federal law to protect young people from cross-sex hormones and so-called “gender reassignment surgeries,” adding, “‘we’ve got to protect our kids from this radical gender ideology agenda.’”

Regarding abortion, moderator Dana Perino asked Gov. DeSantis how he—given that pro-abortion forces have had recent successes at the ballot box, and given that he had signed a ban on abortions after six weeks’ gestation in Florida—could appeal to voters in Arizona, which may have a pro-abortion measure on the ballot next fall. Gov. DeSantis responded that he had done well in liberal areas of Florida by leading with courage and conviction. The Governor added, “‘I reject the idea that pro-lifers are to blame for midterm defeats.’” He also urged Republicans to highlight the extremism of Democrats’ positions on abortion. Gov. Christie asserted that he had vetoed Planned Parenthood funding 14 times in New Jersey because he believes in life; however, the Governor hinted that he preferred state-level legislation on pro-life issues to a federal law on the subject.