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Republican candidates turnon one another, Trump absent

SIMI VALLEY: Donald Trump’s Republican rivals clashed at a chaotic presidential debate on Wednesday, leveling attacks at the absent former president, Democratic President Joe Biden and one another over issues from China to immigration to the economy.

But as the debate ended, none of the seven candidates on stage appeared to have secured the sort of breakout moment that would alter the dynamics of a primary contest that Trump has dominated for months, despite his four criminal indictments – which went

virtually unmentioned during the two-hour broadcast.

Trump, who led his nearest rival for the nomination by 37 percentage points in the most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, skipped the debate, as he did the first one in Wisconsin last month.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis used his first answer to call out Trump for being “missing in action” and for adding trillions of dollars to the national debt.

“He should be on this stage tonight,” DeSantis said, drawing applause from the audience at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

“He owes it to you to defend his record.”

DeSantis, whose poll numbers have declined after he was widely seen as the leading Trump alternative, has been more willing to attack the frontrunner recently after months of avoiding direct confrontation.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a frequent Trump critic, chimed in, saying Trump was “afraid” and mocking him as “Donald Duck” for skipping the debate.

Mike Pence, vice president under Trump from 2017-2021, offered a mild critique of Trump’s desire to centralise power in the federal government, vowing to give power back to the states.

And former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley said Trump had taken the wrong approach on China by focusing exclusively on trade, rather than broader security issues.

– Reuters