Recap of the Second Presidential Debate: Trump’s Absence, Controversial Statements, and Impact on the 2024 Primary Race

The second presidential debate of the 2024 election took place on Wednesday night in Simi Valley, California. However, the notable absence was former president Donald Trump, who is currently leading the Republican field.[0] Seven Republican candidates took the stage, hoping to make a breakthrough and gain momentum in the polls.[1]

The debate was marked by heated exchanges as each candidate tried to distinguish themselves from the pack and appeal to voters.[2] One notable moment came from entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who falsely claimed that being transgender is a mental health disorder. This statement sparked controversy, as it conflated being transgender with gender dysphoria, a separate diagnosis recognized by medical professionals.

Major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, have stated that being transgender is not a mental disorder. They emphasize the importance of offering gender-affirming treatment to individuals experiencing gender dysphoria.[3]

The third debate among Republican candidates is scheduled for early November in Miami, Florida.[4] The specific dates and venue have yet to be announced. The debate will be moderated by Fox News anchor Dana Perino, Fox Business host Stuart Varney, and Univision’s Ilia Calderon.[5]

The viewership for the second debate was lower than the first, with 9.5 million viewers tuning in.[5] This is a 25% decrease from the previous debate. Comparatively, the first two Democratic primary debates of the 2020 election cycle averaged 13.2 million viewers.[6]

While Trump did not attend the debate, he made a visit to Michigan the day prior, where he addressed autoworkers pushing for better pay and working conditions.[7] This move was seen as a counter to President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Michigan, where he joined union autoworkers on the picket line.[8]

During the debate, Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, opposed fracking and offshore drilling, highlighting his commitment to protecting the environment.[9] However, it should be noted that it was Florida voters who banned offshore drilling through a constitutional amendment.[9]

The candidates who qualified for the second debate were Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.[10]

Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who narrowly met the qualifications for the first debate, did not make the cut for the second debate.[4] The debate took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, and was hosted by Fox Business Network and Univision.[7]

Overall, the second debate did not appear to have a significant impact on the 2024 primary race. Many Republican strategists believe that it did little to change the dynamics and that no clear winner emerged from the event. The Trump campaign even called for future debates to be canceled, emphasizing the need to focus on defeating President Biden.[11]

In terms of viewership, Fox News had the largest audience with 6.69 million viewers, followed by Fox Business Network with 1.81 million viewers and Univision with 813,000 viewers.[6]

The absence of Donald Trump from the debate was a disappointment for many Republican voters who were eager to see how the other candidates would fare against him. His strong lead in the polls continues to dominate the primary race, leaving his rivals with the challenge of finding a way to chip away at his popularity.

0. “Who won the Republican presidential debate? Our winners and losers” The Washington Post, 28 Sep. 2023,

1. “Second GOP Debate Leaves Anti-Trump Republicans Scrambling for a Strategy” The Wall Street Journal, 29 Sep. 2023,

2. “GOP contenders battle for spotlight at 2nd debate” TODAY, 28 Sep. 2023,

3. “Fact-check: six Republican debate claims from crime to immigration” The Guardian US, 28 Sep. 2023,

4. “How to watch the second Republican debate for free—and without cable” Fortune, 27 Sep. 2023,

5. “Second GOP presidential primary debate drops to 9.5M viewers” Axios, 29 Sep. 2023,

6. “TV Ratings: Republican Primary Debate Down, Still Leads Primetime” Hollywood Reporter, 28 Sep. 2023,

7. “What to expect at the second Republican debate of 2024 US presidential race” Al Jazeera English, 27 Sep. 2023,

8. “Trump skips GOP debate, again, this time for Michigan rally with autoworkers” NPR, 27 Sep. 2023,

9. “FactChecking the Second GOP Primary Debate”, 28 Sep. 2023,

10. “Conservatives, pundits name their winners and losers from 2nd GOP debate” Fox Business, 28 Sep. 2023,

11. “Second GOP debate is widely panned” The Hill, 29 Sep. 2023,

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