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2024 Republican debate shows why absent Trump is in the lead

republican u.s. presidential candidates participate in first 2024 campaign debate in milwaukee
U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) speaks as former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum listen at the first Republican candidates' debate of the 2024 U.S. presidential campaign in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S. August 23, 2023. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Two White House hopefuls squabbled over curtains on live television, while a third boasted he had been sleeping with a teacher for the past 38 years who happened to be his wife as a Republican presidential debate took some strange turns.

The seven Republicans on stage at their party’s second 2024 presidential primary debate on Wednesday night sought to convince voters they could be a viable alternative to frontrunner Donald Trump, who skipped the televised event.

Instead, the debate often devolved into petty fights and some bizarre comments.

U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina criticized former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley over the purchase of $50,000 curtains at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in New York.

Haley, U.N. ambassador in Trump’s administration, said the curtains had been bought during the previous Obama administration, and told Scott to “do your homework.”

Scott responded by asking three times: “Did you send them back?” before the exchange devolved into cacophony with the two candidates, joined by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, talking over one another.

The New York Times in 2018 reported that $52,701 had been spent for “customized and mechanized curtains” for the residence. The article said plans to buy the curtains were made in 2016, before Trump took office.

In another moment, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie used a question about education to mention that Democratic President Joe Biden was “sleeping with a member of the teachers’ union” – a reference to his wife Jill Biden, a teacher.

Building on that comment, Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, said he had to admit that “I’ve been sleeping with a teacher for 38 years” – a reference to his own wife, Karen Pence.

Trump supporters claimed the level of debate showed why he was in the lead.

“Trump’s primary non-challengers are spending their night debating about curtains,” pro-Trump consultant Alex Bruesewitz posted on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. “Trump 2024.”

The debate ended with a proposal from a moderator for the candidates to write down who should be “voted off the island” to help winnow the field of candidates vying with Trump for the Republican nomination.

The proposal, reminiscent of the reality TV show “Survivor,” was swiftly rejected by the candidates, led by DeSantis, who said it was “disrespectful.”

Only Christie answered, saying he would vote off Trump. “He needs to be voted off the island, and he needs to be taken out of this process,” Christie said.

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