empty podium for debate

Republican Candidates Debate in Simi Valley, California

September 27, 2023

Governor Doug Burgum (ND);
Former Governor Chris Christie (NJ);
Governor Ron DeSantis (FL);
Former Governor Nikki Haley (SC);
Former Vice President Mike Pence;
Vivek Ramaswamy;
Senator Tim Scott (SC);

Ilia Calderon (Univision);
Dana Perino (Fox News); and
Stuart Varney (Fox Business)

VARNEY: Welcome to the second Republican Debate of the 2024 Primary live from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

We're inside the spectacular Air Force One Pavilion, where the stage is set for a showdown.

I'm Stuart Varney of Fox Business, and I am thrilled to be sitting alongside my co-moderators, Fox News Channel, Dana Perino and Ilia Calderon of Univision.

CALDERON: Good evening.

VARNEY: Good evening.

CALDERON: Thank you. Thank you, Stuart.

President Reagan famously described America as a shining city on a hill. And, tonight, seven candidates will make the case they should be the one to lead that city into a brighter tomorrow.

But, first, they have to convince you, the voter.

Please allow me to welcome our Spanish-speaking audience. [speaks in Spanish]

PERINO: And good evening.

So, let's meet the candidates who have qualified and chosen to be on this stage tonight. They are positioned by the order they rank in the polls, with the highest-polling candidate in the middle.

Standing center stage, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. [cheering and applause]

VARNEY: Flanking the governor, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy... [cheering and applause] ... and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. [cheering and applause]

CALDERON: Next is South Carolina Senator Tim Scott... [cheering and applause] ... and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. [cheering and applause]

PERINO: On the wing tonight, former Vice President Mike Pence... [cheering and applause] ... and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. [cheering and applause]

VARNEY: We have questions on a wide variety of issues important to primary voters.

Candidates get one minute to answer and 30 seconds to respond if singled out. When their time runs out, we will all hear this. [bell rings]

We have a lot of ground to cover, so please keep it civilized.

PERINO: Let's get going.

We are in this spacious, sunny place tonight designed to reflect the very nature and character of Ronald Reagan. It's a place that makes you proud to be an American. Yet, today, our nation is drowning in division and incivility.

CALDERON: Voters say they dread the 2024 election and find politics exhausting. Two in three Americans think the country is on the wrong track, and three in four say that the economy is not in good shape.

VARNEY: Prices are up 18 percent since 2020. More than half of the U.S. population has little access to childcare; 85 percent of Americans say their personal finances are a source of stress.

PERINO: Americans want to believe a leader who says: you can follow me, I've got you, don't worry. President Biden is trying to do that with Bidenomics.

VARNEY: And yesterday he joined the picket lines where auto workers are demanding more wages and job security.

Senator Scott, you recently reacted by praising Ronald Reagan for firing air traffic controllers in the 1980s, saying, you strike, you're fired. Would you fire thousands of striking auto workers today, Senator?

SCOTT: Obviously the president of the United States cannot fire anybody in the private sector. However, we should look back at the first bill in Congress under Joe Biden. The first bill had $86 billion for the union pensions because they continue to over-promise yet under-deliver. One of the challenges that we have with the current negotiations is that they want four-day French workweeks, but more money. They want more benefits working fewer hours.

That is simply not going to stand. I sat in a Finance Committee hearing when a widow came before the committee whose promised pensions from the unions, $4,000 a month. Unfortunately it had been cut to $1,000 a month. We must make sure that we honor the commitments that we make. And one of the ways we do that, do not over-promise and then under-deliver and leave the taxpayers on the hook.

I'll say this, Joe Biden should not be on the picket line. He should be on the southern border working to close our southern border. [applause]

Because it is unsafe, wide open, and insecure, leading to the deaths of 70,000 Americans in the last 12 months because of fentanyl. It is devastating. Every county in America is now a border county because fentanyl has devastated Americans in every single state.

I will also say 6 million illegal crossings since Joe Biden has taken office. And he eliminated Title 42.

[bell rings]

The one thing he should do is finish the wall, reinstate Title 42, and get the job done. [applause]

PERINO: Well, I can promise you we are going to have a lot of questions on the border and immigration. But in the meantime, we want to talk about the economy and jobs, and especially want to talk about this strike for just a moment more.

Mr. Ramaswamy, you've said you really empathize with the strikers. You're standing next to Senator Scott and do you agree with what he said or I do you think he's wrong?

RAMASWAMY: I agree with some of what he said, for sure. I like the spirit of it. I'll say that I don't have a lot of patience for the union bosses. I think that's where he and I actually have a common view. I do have a lot of sympathy for the workers, however. People are going through real hardship in this country.

I've been through hardship growing up. My father stared down layoffs at GE under Jack Welch's tenure at the GE plant in Evendale, Ohio. My mom had to work overtime in nursing homes in southwest Ohio to make ends meet and pay off our home loan. So I understand that hardship is not a choice.

But victimhood is a choice. And we choose to be victorious in the United States of America. You know, if I was giving advice to those workers, I would say go picket in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. That's really where the protest needs to be. Disastrous economic policies that have driven up prices, that have driven up interest rates and mortgage rates, at the same time wages remaining stagnant.

What we need is to deliver economic growth in this country. Unlock American energy, drill, frack, burn coal, embrace nuclear energy, put people back to work by no longer paying them more money to stay at home. Stabilize the U.S. dollar itself. And rescind a majority of those unconstitutional federal regulations that are hampering our economy.

That is how we unleash American exceptionalism. And that's not a Democratic vision or a Republican vision, that is an American vision that we embrace economic growth. And capitalism is still the best system known to man to lift us up from poverty. And we should not apologize for it. That's what it means to be an American. [applause]

VARNEY: Together the CEOs of General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis make 336 times the number of rank and — the member — number of rank and file workers. That's just part of a wider income inequality trend in the country. The richest 1 percent now controls one-fifth of all income.

Vice President Pence, last week you said you side with American workers, but you also support how these companies operate. Which is it?

PENCE: Well, thank you for the question. I want to thank Univision and Fox Business for assembling such a wonderful forum.

Look, I do disagree with something Tim Scott just said. Joe Biden doesn't belong on a picket line. He belongs on the unemployment line. [applause]

I mean, look, I'm from the second leading manufacturing state, in the country, per capita. I was Governor of the State of Indiana. We brought 12,000 factories back to America, during our administration. I know something about manufacturing.

And I got to tell you, while the union bosses are talking about class warfare, and talking about disparity, in wages, I have to tell you, I really believe what's driving that is Bidenomics has failed. Wages are not keeping up with inflation. Autoworkers and all American workers are feeling it. And families are struggling in this economy.

And Joe Biden's Green New Deal agenda is good for Beijing, and bad for Detroit. We ought to repeal the Green New Deal, get rid of the mandates and subsidies that are driving American gasoline automotive manufacturing, into the graveyard.

And beyond that also, as President of the United States, I'll be standing with workers, all across America, and I'll be standing, for the right to work, of every American, to join a union or not join a union, as they decide. [applause]

VARNEY: Senator Scott, you are mentioned.


VARNEY: Would you care to respond?

SCOTT: There's no doubt that Joe Biden needs to be fired. That's why I'm running for president. I look forward to being the next President of the United States. I will also say, I know America can do for anyone what she's done, for me. It's why we're focusing on restoring hope, creating opportunities, and protecting the America, we all love.

Growing up in a single-parent household, I wondered if the American Dream would work for a kid, in the inner city. I've got good news. For every single child, whether you're in the inner cities of Chicago, or the rural parts of Iowa, America and the Dream, it is alive, it is well, and it is healthy.

God bless these United States of America. [applause]

VARNEY: Governor Haley, you raised your hand.

HALEY: Yes, I think we need to look at exactly what happened. Biden showed up on that picket line. But why are those workers actually there? It's because of all of the spending that he is pushed through in the economy that's raised the inflation.

So when you look at the fact that we are paying higher gas prices, higher grocery prices, $7,000 more a year for families, what we need to do is, I came out with an economic plan, eliminate the gas and diesel tax so that they have more money in their pocket.

Let's focus on going after Middle America and cutting taxes for Middle America collapsing those brackets. Let's get rid of unfair distortions like the state and local tax that they give to wealthy people, in Blue states, and not — and paid by Red states. And let's make sure we make the small business taxes permanent. They only made those temporary. They made the corporate taxes permanent.

Let's focus on what it takes to get more cash in the pockets of workers. That's when we'll be able to deal with strikes, like this, not sitting on a picket line, like Joe Biden is.

BURGUM: This is good stuff...

CALDERON: Thank you, Governor Haley. We have other questions, to get to, about the economy. [applause] Allow me to.

BURGUM: I interrupted. I'm sorry.

CALDERON: Allow me to — allow me to.

BURGUM: I'm sorry. I have to jump in, because we're missing the point. And every other network is missing the point.

The reason why people are striking in Detroit is because Joe Biden's interference, with capital markets, and with free markets. The subsidies, we're subsidizing the automakers, and we're subsidizing the cars, and a particular kind of car, not every car. We're particularly we're subsidizing electric vehicles. And when you decide that we're going to take all of your taxpayer monies, take a billion dollars, subsidize a certain type of vehicle, and the batteries come from China?

China controls 85 percent of the Rare Earth minerals. They're called Rare Earth, because they're measured in parts per million. China is moving 100,000 pounds of Earth, in Indonesia, in Africa. They're literally destroying the planet, so that we can make a battery that's in a car, subsidized here.


BURGUM: That's why they're striking, because they need two-thirds less workers to build an electric car. Joe Biden, this strike is at Joe Biden's feet.

CALDERON: We are going to give — we are going to — [applause]

We are going to give the topic of economy. But allow me to follow — the follow question, to Governor Christie.

The government will shut down, if Congress does not reach a deal, by the end of this week. Vice President Pence warns that politics of quote, "Trump's populist prodigies," like Mr. Ramaswamy are a road to ruin, for the GOP. If the government shuts down, should voters blame populist Republicans?

CHRISTIE: Voters should blame everybody who's in Washington, D.C., they get sent down there, to do the job. And they've been failing at doing the job, for a very long time. And let's be honest about this with the voters.

During the Trump administration, they added $7 trillion, $7 trillion in national debt. And now, the Biden administration has put another $5 trillion on and counting. They have failed, and they're in the spot they're in now because none of them are willing to tell the truth; none of them are willing to take on the difficult issues. They just want to keep kicking the can down the road.

And the inflation that Nikki spoke about is absolutely right, and it's caused by government spending. And that's why people all across this country are suffering tonight. And yet we don't get any answers because Joe Biden hides in his basement and won't answer as to why he's raising the debt the way he's done. And Donald Trump hides behind the walls of his golf clubs and won't show up here to answer questions like all the rest of us are up here to answer.

He put $7 trillion on the debt...[applause]... he should be in this room to answer those questions for the people you talk about who are suffering.[applause]

PENCE: Can I speak about...


CHRISTIE: And if the government — and if the government closes — and if the government closes...

PENCE: Can I speak about that?

CHRISTIE: ... it's the blame — it is to the blame of everyone in Washington, D.C. who has failed to do their job and just plays to the grandstand.


CALDERON: The next question is for Governor DeSantis.


SCOTT: We want to get things done. Here's how we get it done in Washington.


CALDERON: Please respect the time.

SCOTT: We can get it done.

CALDERON: Governor DeSantis, you haven't spoken. Please.

DESANTIS: The people in Washington are shutting down the American dream with their reckless behavior. They borrowed, they printed, they spent and now you're paying more for everything. They are the reason for that. They have shut down our national sovereignty by allowing our border to be wide open.

So please spare me the crocodile tears for these people. They need to change what's going on. And where's Joe Biden? He's completely missing in action from leadership.

And you know who else is missing in action? Donald Trump is missing in action. He should be on this stage tonight. [applause]

He owes it to you...[applause]... to defend his record, where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt. That set the stage for the inflation that we have.

Now, I can tell you this as governor of Florida, we cut taxes; we ran surpluses; we've paid down over 25 percent of our state debt. And I vetoed wasteful spending when it came to my desk. And as your president, when they send me a bloating spending bill that's going to cause your prices to go up, I'm going to take out this veto pen and I'm going to send it right back to them. [applause]

RAMASWAMY: Ilia, you mentioned...[crosstalk]... question. I just wanted to address it.

PERINO: You guys, I'm going to go — I'm going to go to Senator Scott, but I have a question that is on the minds of a lot of moms and dads and Americans, and I know that you've been thinking about it because — childcare costs...


PERINO: ... they are up. They're topping $10,000 per month. Some families are spending up to half of their income on childcare.


PERINO: And they're having to decide, is it worth it for me to work or does it not make sense for me financially?

In three days, the billions of dollars in pandemic-era funding is going to end. And 70,000 daycares could close. So you had an effort to broaden eligibility for childcare assistance. That fell apart last year.

And for the moms and dads out there who are worried, what can you tell them, if you weren't able to get it through the Congress, how could you do it as president?

SCOTT: Certainly, one of the things I did as a member of the Congress was to make sure that we protected the Head Start programs around the country, giving people the opportunity to pick and choose the place that they send their children. The challenges that we see today under the Biden administration is that the cost for daycare has gone over $15,000 per child.

And the Build Back Broker plan — he called it a Build Back Better plan — it was going up to $29,000. The way we fix that problem is to make sure that we actually cut taxes and give more Americans their money back.

When I helped write the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, we actually lowered a single mother's taxes by 70 percent on the federal level, for dual-income households by 60 percent. Then we went a step further. We doubled the child tax credit and made it refundable.

By doing that, more parents had more resources to make the decisions how to take care of their family. The one thing we should do is let the American people keep their money. When that happens, the greatest opportunities rise from the ashes.

RAMASWAMY: Let me jump in here.

PERINO: I can give you 15 seconds. Go ahead, and then we're going to the border.

RAMASWAMY: I need to jump in because Ilia — Ilia mischaracterized part of my view. I think this artificial division is unhelpful in our party. The real divide is not between the Republicans on this stage. And in the Reagan Library, I want to say these are good people on this stage. The real divide is between the majority of us in this country who love the United States of America and share our founding ideals, free speech, meritocracy...


RAMASWAMY: ... the idea you get ahead in this country not on the color of your skin but on the content of your character. And the fringe minority in the Democrat Party that has a chokehold over that party, that's the real divide.

PERINO: All right...

RAMASWAMY: So this populist versus classical debate...

PERINO: We are going to go to immigration.

RAMASWAMY: ... is artificial. We need to unite this party.

PENCE: I actually want to...[crosstalk]

PERINO: ... immigration and the border.


CALDERON: We are going to talk about immigration and the border and...

PENCE: I want to answer the question on — I want to answer the question on childcare. We have millions...

RAMASWAMY: We got the hell out of there.

And when I started my next company, Strive —


HALEY: Right before you ran for president?

RAMASWAMY: That's years ago.


SCOTT: 2023, 2023.

RAMASWAMY: Right when I started my next company, Strive, to compete against Blackrock —

SCOTT: It's a debate.

RAMASWAMY: Excuse me.

SCOTT: No, no. It's a debate between you and you.


RAMASWAMY: To compete against Blackrock, I made a commitment that we would never do business in China. And I will say something —


CALDERON: Mr. Ramaswamy, I think you have more than time to explain your point.

RAMASWAMY: Well, if I — I was interrupted by a lot of people here and I want to be respectful because I believe —


SCOTT: I've been — yeah, you were respectful in the last debate.

RAMASWAMY: But I do not believe in this — we're sitting here in the Reagan Library.

SCOTT: Yes, I wish —


SCOTT: — midnight in America.


RAMASWAMY: And the honor of Ronald Reagan's library, if I may. From one — Tim, from one admirer of Ronald Reagan to another —

SCOTT: Listen, all I'm asking you. I'm asking you —

RAMASWAMY: From one admirer of Ronald Reagan to another, we cannot —


DESANTIS: This is unproductive, I want


RAMASWAMY: Let's have a policy debate —

DESANTIS: — understand what's going on.


RAMASWAMY: Let's have a policy debate, and the right answer is —


CALDERON: Mr. Ramaswamy, I have a question for Vice President Pence. Thank you very much.

RAMASWAMY: — we need to declare independence from China, and I will say that through.

CALDERON: Vice President Pence, in 2017, the Trump-Pence administration canceled DACA, which put the legal status of 600,000 Dreamers in the hands of the court. Dreamers work and they pay taxes.

As president, if the Supreme Court ends DACA, would you work with Congress to reach a permanent solution for Dreamers?

PENCE: First, let me say, I'm glad — I'm glad Vivek pulled out of his business deal in 2018 in China. That must have been about the time you decided to start voting in presidential elections. So, nice to have you participate in elections.


So, let me — let me speak to this issue. Number one, I negotiated the "Remain in Mexico" policy with the Mexican government. We used economic power to bring the Mexican government to the table. We built hundreds of miles of border wall and despite what's said here today, we reduced illegal immigration and asylum abuse by 90 percent.

And as president of the United States, I can do it again.


And truth is what — the truth is we need to fix a broken immigration system and I'll do that as well.

But first and foremost, a nation without borders is not a nation. And we have to secure the southern border of the United States of America, I know how to do it and we will do it again.

Let me say one other thing about China. [applause]

CALDERON: Vice President —

PENCE: Let me say one other thing about China —

CALDERON: Vice President, would you negotiate with Congress to give a solution to the problem that Dreamers have right now? They are on a limbo.

PENCE: Let me tell you, I served in Congress for 12 years, although it seemed longer.

But you know, something I've done different than everybody on this stage is I've actually — I've actually secured reform in Congress.

You know — you know, Ron, you talk a really good game about cutting spending but you've increased spending in Florida by 30 percent.

When I was a member of Congress in 2006, right after Hurricane Katrina, Dana, you remember it, we stood our ground. I led House conservatives. We cut $100 billion out of the federal budget.

It can be done, but as I said in the last debate, I'll say again, this is no time for on the job training. I'm going to be ready on day one to get Congress to step up, secure the southern border of the United States, build a military fitted to our times —

CALDERON: Okay, thank you, Mr. Vice President.

PENCE: — and we're going to get spending in Washington, D.C. under control once and for all.


VARNEY: On the other side of this — I propose to go to a break — how will these candidates make America safer as rising crime plagues our cities? Debate night continues in moments.

[commercial break]

PERINO: And welcome back to the Reagan Library for the second Republican presidential debate. I do want to just remind everyone. There's one minute for questions, three seconds for a follow-up, and the more we mention each other that means fewer questions you're going to get.

OK. So we want to talk about crime. This has been a horrendous problem in our country. Fox News and others have been covering it.

Governor Christie, crime in major cities is striking fear into the hearts of Americans. Just last night, looters took over the streets of Philadelphia. You said in the last debate that you would use U.S. attorneys to prosecute crimes local prosecutors won't. But they are stretched as well and they could not handle all of the lawlessness, the shoplifting, all the carjackings, the armed robberies. They are all surging.

Progressive prosecutors were elected by their constituents and they can't be fired by a president. So what would you do to end the revolving door of criminality?

CHRISTIE: Well, look, Dana, I'm the only one on this stage who'd done it. For seven years I ran the fifth largest office in this country, at the U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey, and we set records for the number of prosecutions that we brought that still have not been broken. And the reason was that we went after the crime that was affecting people's lives.

And as president, I will appoint an attorney general and instruct that attorney general that you are to put all the resources that are necessary to bring our cities back under control. The fact is, they will be stretched. There's no doubt about that. But that's what they take the job for because they love the idea of enforcing the law.

We've got to bring law and order back to this country. And not just in our cities. But we need law and order back everywhere. We need law and order back in our suburbs. People are threatened there. We need it in our rural areas. People feel threatened there. And we need it in Washington, D.C. also.

And Donald Trump should be here to answer for that but he's not. And I want to look in that camera right now and tell you, Donald, I know you're watching. You can't help yourself. I know you're watching. OK? And you're not here tonight. Not because of polls and not because of your indictments. You're not here tonight because you are afraid of being on this stage and depending on your record.

You're ducking these things. And let me tell you what's going to happen. You keep doing that, no one up here is going to call you Donald Trump anymore. We're going to call you Donald Duck.

PERINO: All right. I want to ask — [cheers and applause]

Governor DeSantis, you fired a couple of prosecutors in your state. But as governor — I mean, sorry, as president, you would not have the ability to do that. How do you think about dealing with the root causes of crime especially this revolving door of the criminals? They just get out and come back and commit another crime.

DESANTIS: Well, the crime in these cities is — is one of the strongest signs of the decaying of America.

We can't be successful as a country if people aren't even safe to live in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Just being in Southern California over the last couple days, my wife and I have met three people who have been mugged on the street, and that would have never happened 10 or 20 years ago.

In Florida, we back the blue. We support the men and women of law enforcement. They are keeping us safe. We have a 50-year low in the crime rate. [applause]

And, yes, when I had two progressive prosecutors that weren't following the law in Florida, I removed them from their posts, and the people of Florida are safer as a result of it.

As president, I will use the Justice Department to bring civil rights cases against all of those left-wing, Soros-funded prosecutors. We're not going to let them get away with it anymore. We want to reverse this country's decline...[cheering and applause]... we need to choose law and order over rioting and disorder.

VARNEY: On a related subject, Governor Haley, there's a nationwide policing shortage. Retirements are up. Recruitment is in the tank. The morale is at a record low.

Three years ago, you signed a pledge to support law enforcement. Now, pledges are a nice idea, but what's your actual plan to get more police on our streets?

HALEY: Well, and I actually did it in South Carolina too.

What we knew in South Carolina was, you take care of those who take care of you. We have to start taking care of law enforcement, but it's not just taking care of them with words. It's making sure that you also follow through on what they do.

Right now, we have a lot of stolen guns on the street. Well, these law enforcement officers, they arrest these people, and then they go and they're let out the very next day. So, law enforcement feels like they don't — no one has their back.

We have to start prosecuting according to the law. We have to make sure we have the backs of law enforcement, and we have to make sure that we're a country of law and order.

But I want to go back to China, because I don't think we spent enough time on that. Right now, we have to look at what government is doing to hurt us against China too. You have a company, USAntibiotics, that produces amoxicillin, the number one antibiotic that we need.

And, right now, there is a company in Bristol, Tennessee, that produces that, yet our federal government only gets it from China. We need to be focusing on companies that produce in America and supporting those companies that produce in America, not companies that are helping China. [applause]

VARNEY: Governor, we will be talking foreign policy later.


CALDERON: Thank you.

Well, we're going to stay in the topic of crime, because it affects all of us.

Governor Burgum, for the first time ever, a Univision poll found that mass shootings and gun safety are one of the most important issue for Latino voters. Mental health concerns are not unique to the United States, but gun violence is.

What is your specific plan to curb gun violence?

BURGUM: Well, first, we need to know and understand is, I think that the liberal left is — seems to be just completely bent on prosecuting law-abiding citizens that are gun owners, because every solution they have to this is take away the Second Amendment rights of Americans and somehow that's going to solve the problem.

But all these cities that we're talking about, that showed the videos of tonight, they have some of the strictest gun laws in the country. So we know that that's not what's working. What we have to do is get back to the core issues about the family. We have to get back to behavioral health and mental health.

We have got to get back to actually enforcing the laws these people talked about, and like we have done in North Dakota, where we're — we have got the goal and we're on the track to be the most military-friendly state in the nation. We have got the most military and the most support of what we're doing in terms of law enforcement, because the — the morale is down because we have been defunding the police, because they have been attacked in the press.

The police have become the bad guys, when they're the one — they — there's all these jobs available in America. Why would you be a policeman if people don't even respect them?

Every time I see a policeman, the first thing I say is, thank you. And so does everybody else in my family and most of the people in our state, because they know we have to respect the people that are out there defending us every single day. [applause]

PENCE: Can I answer the question on mass shootings?

CALDERON: Mr. Ramaswamy, Mr. Ramaswamy, according to Customs and Border Protection, about 90 percent of fentanyl is seized at official border crossings, and 57 percent of the smugglers are U.S. citizens.

How would you stop fentanyl brought into the country, mostly by U.S. citizens through ports of entry?

RAMASWAMY: There's two sides to this, and we have to be very honest about it.

One is, we do have to seal that Southern border. Building the wall is not enough. They're building cartel-financed tunnels underneath that wall. Semitrucks can drive through them. We have to use our own military to seal the Swiss cheese of a Southern border.

But we also have to be honest. There's a demand-side problem in this country too, a mental health epidemic.

I met a family in Iowa, two parents, Kathy and Deric. They lost their son Sebastian, 17 years old. He bought Percocet on Snapchat and then he died. Why did he die? Because it was laced with fentanyl. That is closer to bio-terrorism, not a drug overdose. That is poisoning.

So it is our job to make sure that never happens. But it's also our job to make sure that 17-year-olds don't turn to Percocet via Snapchat. We have to bring back mental health care in this country, not with pumping pharmaceuticals, but faith-based approaches that restore purpose and meaning in the next generation of Americans.

Many of them are getting it through social media. And this isn't a Republican point or a Democrat point. But if you're 16 years old or under, you should not be using an addictive social media product, period. This is something that we can both agree on and we can revive both...[bell rings]... the mental health of this country while stopping the fentanyl epidemic that will kill more people this year than who died on 9/11. And I refuse to be a passive bystander sitting in the White House like the hollowed-out husk of the current president we have. We will step up and address this problem to stand for Americans and our children. [applause]


PERINO: I want to go to Vice President Pence next.


DESANTIS: That is why — everything he said I agree with. That is why, as commander-in-chief, I'm going to use the U.S. military to go after the Mexican drug cartels. [applause]

They are killing our people. And the stories that I've seen, in Florida, we had an infant, 18 months, parents rented an Airbnb. And apparently the people that had rented before were using drugs. The infant was crawling — the toddler was crawling on the carpet and ingested fentanyl residue and died.

Are we just going to sit here and let this happen, this carnage happen in our country? I am not going to do that. So I guarantee you, on day one, this border is going to be a day one issue for me as president. We're going to declare it a national emergency. Yes, we'll build the wall. We'll do "remain in Mexico." But those Mexican drug cartels are going to be treated like the foreign terrorist organizations that they are.


PERINO: All right. I'm going to go to Vice — I'm going to Vice President Pence.


All right. Vice President Pence — we're going to move on to a different issue.

Hold on, sir.


Vice President Pence, just last month, Vice President Pence, you said if elected you would repeal all Obamacare mandates. However, you also made that same promise in 2016. And at that time, Trump-Pence had congressional majorities for at least the first two years and you did not deliver on that promise. So Obamacare right now, it is more popular than ever. Why should Americans trust you if you become president to fix that or is Obamacare here to stay?

PENCE: Well, first let me speak to the mass shootings issue and then I'll answer that question, it's an important one, Dana.

Look, I'm someone that believes that justice delayed is justice denied. And as a father of three, as a grandfather of three beautiful little girls, I am sick and tired of these mass shootings happening in the United States of America. And if I'm president of the United States, I'm going to go to the Congress of the United States and we're going to pass a federal expedited death penalty for anyone involved in a mass shooting so that they will meet their fate in months, not years.

It is unconscionable that the — the Parkland shooter, Ron, is actually going to spend the rest of his life behind bars in Florida. That's not justice. We have to mete out justice and send a message to these would-be killers that you are not going to live out your days behind bars.

PERINO: I appreciate that.

PENCE: You're going to meet justice in the system.

PERINO: But does that mean Obamacare is here to stay? [laughter]

PENCE: Well, thank you for reiterating the question because I'd love to answer it. Look...

PERINO: You've got 30 seconds.

PENCE: ... I think it's one of the — I think it's one of the choices here. You know, my former running mate, Donald Trump, actually has a plan to start to consolidate more power in Washington, D.C., consolidate more power in the executive branch. When I'm president of the United States, it's my intention to make the federal government smaller by returning to the states those resources and programs that are rightfully theirs under Tenth Amendment of the Constitution.

That means all Obamacare funding, all housing funding, all HHS funding, all of it goes back to the states. We'll shut down the federal Department of Education. We'll allow states to innovate. We're going to revive federalism...[bell rings]... in America and states are going to help bring America back. [crosstalk] ... Obamacare staying.

But, Stu, go ahead.

VARNEY: May I remind everyone to keep within their time frame so that we can get as many questions in as possible. [crosstalk] This question for Governor DeSantis. Over 26 million Americans... [crosstalk] ... can — don't have insurance coverage. Governor DeSantis, 2.5 million of them are in your state. That's worse than the national average. Can Americans trust you on this?

DESANTIS: Well, I think this is a symptom of our overall economic decline. Everything has gotten more expensive. You see insurance rates going through the roof. People that are going to get groceries, I've spoken with a woman in Iowa. And she said, you know, for the first time in my life, I'm having to take things out of my grocery cart when I get to the checkout line —

And she said, you know, for the first time in my life, I'm having to take things out of my grocery cart when I get to the checkout line because the total goes up so quickly."

So, this is very real, and people are hurting out there. So, we've got to address the underlying problem, with Bidenomics, the overspending. Taking all Biden's rules and regulations, I'm going to throw them in the trash can, on day one, you're not going to have to worry about that.

We're going to open up all of our energy. We will be energy-dominant, in this country that will lower your gas prices.

And what we need to do with health care is recognize our health care is putting patients at the back of the bus. We have Big Pharma, Big Insurance, and Big Government. And we need to tackle that, and have more power, for the people, and the doctor-patient relationship.

VARNEY: Governor, why is your record, in Florida, on insurance, worse than the national average?

DESANTIS: It's not. Our State's a dynamic state. We've got a lot of folks that come. Of course, we've had a population boom.

We also don't have a lot of welfare benefits, in Florida. We're basically say we want to — this is a field of dreams, you can do well in the state. But we're not going to be like California, and have massive numbers of people, on government programs, without work requirements. We believe your work, and you got to do that. And so, that goes for all the welfare benefits.

And you know what that's done, Stuart? Our unemployment rate is the lowest, amongst any big state. We have the highest GDP growth of any big state. And even CNBC, no fan of mine, ranked Florida, the number one economy, in America.

HALEY: But you have one of the worst insurance...[inaudible].



CALDERON: On the topic of health care, Governor Haley, health care is the leading cause of bankruptcy, for American families, accounting for two-thirds, of all personal bankruptcies.

As president, how you protect Americans, who get sick from financial ruin?

HALEY: First of all, how can we be the best country in the world, and have the most expensive health care in the world? We have an issue.

My mom was in the hospital. And when she was in the hospital, they tried to bring her a couple of Tylenol. And she said, "I don't need it." And they said, "Honey, go ahead and take it because you're paying for it anyway." Why is it that when we got the bill, the insurance company, and the hospital, negotiated the bill, for her, without her having anything to do with it?

When I am President, we will break all of it, from the insurance company, to the hospitals, to the doctor's offices, to the PBMs, to the pharmaceutical companies. We will make it all transparent. Because, when you do that, you will realize that's what the problem is.

Second thing is you've got to deal with tort law. The lawyer — the doctors don't give you the 10 tests, because they want to. It's because of the 90 percent chance they'll get sued.

And then, we need to bring competition back to health care, get rid of certificate-of-need systems, and make sure that they can compete. We have to put the patient, in the driver's seat. They've been in the backseat, for way too long. And once we give the patient, the ability, to decide their health care, deciding which plan they want, that is when we will see magic happen.

But we're going to have to make every part of the industry open up, and show us where their warts are, because they all have them. And we need to fix this on behalf of the American people.

PERINO: Governor Burgum, in 30 seconds —

PENCE: And that's why we're going to be —



PERINO: — do you have a — do you have a better way? In 30 seconds.

BURGUM: Well, yes, we're not — we're not talking about the real problem ever.

We talk about why do we have the most expensive health care in the world? It's because the federal government got involved, the same way they did with EVs. And they said, "We're going to subsidize a particular kind of software," back in 2008, under Obama, and they said, "Hey, we're going to do this. It's going to make everything more productive."

All of you that are watching, have been to a doctor's office, when the doctors got his back to you, and their hands' on a keyboard? The only industry, in the world, that's ever absorbed $1 trillion of IT, and became less productive, they saw less patients per day, is U.S. health care, because they were subsidizing a certain kind of technology.

It wasn't — it wasn't about improving health care. It was about picking winners and losers. Every time the federal government's involved, whether it's higher education, health care —

PERINO: Right.

BURGUM: — or now, the auto industry, things get more expensive, and less competitive. [applause]

PENCE: This is why we have to have states even...[inaudible].

PERINO: That was a great transition, because we are going to move on the future, of education, in America. What's the government's role in finding a way forward?

The second Republican debate rolls on from Simi Valley.

[commercial break]

PERINO: And we are back live at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in the Air Force One Pavilion for the second Republican debate. And let's get back to our questions.

Governor Haley, American students, they are in academic trouble. They have lower scores in math and reading. There's chronic absenteeism. That's at record highs. And this has even been called "education homicide."

You say school choice is the answer, but South Carolina, your home state, still has not enacted universal school choice, and even a current expansion won't be fully implemented until 2027. Parents can't wait four years for a fix, so what would you do right now?

HALEY: Well, and school choice isn't the only answer, but I'll tell you, it's not out of a lack of trying that we didn't try and get school choice in South Carolina.

What I'll tell you, first of all, is we have to acknowledge the fact that 67 percent of our eighth graders are not proficient in reading or math. Over 80 percent of our eighth graders aren't proficient in history or civics. And recently, they came out and said our 12 and 13 year olds are scoring at the lowest levels they've been scoring in reading and math in decades.

So the first thing we've got to do is we've got to make sure we catch our kids backup. We have to make sure they can read. A child that can't read by third grade is four times less likely to graduate high school. We need to do reading remediation, we need complete transparency in the classroom. No parent should ever want to what's being said or taught to their child in the classroom.

We need to make sure that we have school choice so that there's competition. We need to move all the programs from the federal government down to the states and let states decide what education looks like in their states. And we need to start building things in America again. Let's put vocational classes back in our high schools. And let's get our kids building the things that we know that we can make.

When we start to focus on that and really bringing that parental involvement, that's when we'll start to see a difference. But we've got to get parents back included. We've got to quit spending time on this DEI and CRT, and instead focus on financial literacy on digital literacy, and on making sure that our kids know what they need to do to have the jobs of the next generation the.

VARNEY: On the subject of education, a question for Governor Christie. Students in your state are getting high marks on their report cards. But minorities are not doing well with math and reading. Black and Hispanic students averaging 29 points lower than white students in New Jersey. Would you address minorities first?

CHRISTIE: We have to address all students. And, look, in our state, Stuart, frankly, before I was governor, that gap was close to 50%. And what we did was institute more charter schools and more renaissance schools, and more public school choice in New Jersey with innovative solutions in cities like Camden where now we took what was the worst school districts in America during my time. And we have now increased that by nearly 40% in terms of their proficiency.

It can be done when you give people choice. But let's tell the truth to everybody of what this is. This public school system is no longer run by the public. It is run by the teachers unions in this country. Randi Weingarten and her crew are absolutely straggly. They're taking the worst of their members and defending them rather than advocating for our kids.

And when you have the president of United States sleeping with a member of the teachers union, there is no chance that you could take the stranglehold away from the teachers union every day. They have an advocate inside the White House every day for the worst of their teachers, not for our students to be the best they can be. A president of United States has to take on the teachers union. I did it New Jersey and I will do it as president of United States.

CALDERON: Governor DeSantis, I have a question for you. Governor DeSantis, I have a question for you. This new black history curriculum says quote, "slaves develop skills which in some instances could be applied for their personal benefit."

You have said slaves develop skills in spite of slavery not because of it. But many are still hurt. For descendants of slaves, this is personal. What is your message to them?

DESANTIS: So first of all, that's a hoax that was perpetrated by Kamala Harris. We are not going to be doing that. Second of all, that was written by descendants of slaves. These are great black history scholars. So we need to stop playing these games.

Here's the deal. Our country's education system is in decline because it's focused on indoctrination, denying parent rights. Florida represents the revival of American education. We're ranked number one in the nation in education by US News and World Report.

My wife and I, we have a six, five and three-year-old, this is personal to us. We didn't just talk about universal school choice, we enacted universal school choice. We didn't just talk about Parents Bill of Rights, we enacted the Parents Bill of Rights. We eliminated critical race theory and we now have American civics and the Constitution in our schools in a really big way, just like President Reagan asked for in his farewell address back in 1989.

Florida is showing how it's done. We're standing with parents and our kids are benefiting.

CALDERON: Senator Scott, you oppose — oppose to this new standards. What is your message for Governor DeSantis?

SCOTT: There is not — there is not a redeeming quality in slavery. He and Kamala should have just taken the one sentence out. America has suffered because of slavery, but we've overcome that. We are the greatest nation on Earth because we faced our demons in the mirror and made a decision. So often we think that all the issues — you talked about crime and education, and healthcare, we always think that those issues go back to slavery.

Here's the challenge though. Black families survived slavery. We survived poll taxes and literacy tests. We survived discrimination being woven into the laws of our country. What was hard to survive was Johnson's Great Society where they decided to put money where they decided to take the black father out of the household to get a check in the mail. And you can now measure that in unemployment, in crime, in devastation. If you want to restore hope, you've got to restore the family, restored capitalism and put Americans back at work together as one American family.

Our nation continues to go in the right direction. It's why I can say I have been discriminated against. But America is not a racist country. Never ever doubt who we are. We are the greatest country on God's green earth. And frankly, the city on the hill needs a brand-new leader. And I'm asking for your vote.

PERINO: All right, I'm going to have a question for you, Mr. Ramaswamy. Over 10.7 million students and over 18,000 public schools nationwide have the ability to change their identity without parental notification. Governor Christie told Stuart last week that he would pass a federal law to protect parental rights, would you try to do the same?

RAMASWAMY: I have to be very clear about this transgenderism, especially in kids is a mental health disorder. We have to acknowledge the truth of that for what it is. I met two young women early in this campaign —

PERINO: Specifically on parental rights in school.

RAMASWAMY: — parents have the right to know. And you know what, the hypocrisy of this is, even New Hampshire failed to actually get past a piece of legislation here. The very people who say that this increases the risk of suicide are also the ones saying that parents don't have the right to know about that increased risk of suicide.

And I'm sorry, it is not compassionate, to affirm a kid's confusion. That is not compassion. That is cruelty. I met two young women Chloe and Katie early in this campaign, who are in their 20s, now regret getting double mastectomies and a hysterectomy. One of them will never have children. And the fact that we allowed that to happen in this country is barbaric. So I will ban genital mutilation or chemical castration under —


PERINO: OK, but I want to know —

RAMASWAMY: — and parents have absolutely the right —

PERINO: — would you try to pass a federal law that says parents should have that right?


RAMASWAMY: We are going to require a state's absolutely have to follow that through, we stand if for parental rights — yes.

PERINO: OK. Then, I want to ask Governor Burgum, just to follow up on this. Because in your state, this is — you do not have a law that says parents can't be notified. But you want to be president, would you try to pass a federal law to say parents have that right?

BURGUM: I think this is a state's issue. But I do want to say something. Because all night long, we've been talking about issues about how it's broken in Washington, and I respect all of the people on the stage here for their 100 plus years of public service. Thank you. But the reason why we're not talking about education or health care, or safety being a problem in North Dakota is because we have a business leader. I've got more experience as a business leader than I think this whole group combined. I know I've created more jobs than everybody else on stage, thousands of high paying jobs that have real meaning.

So as a business leader, you come in and you treat the taxpayer like a customer. So in North Dakota, instead of fighting with the teachers unions, we actually created the K-12 Coordinating Council. Everybody gets in the room and the customer is the students.

PERINO: But you do understand that this is an issue that many people in America really are concerned about, worried about, about parents and notification in schools?

BURGUM: Yes. And that's why we have 50 platforms of innovation. That's why we have states. There are certain things the federal government is supposed to do. It's not the Department of Education that needs to be assembled. We got to move it back to states. Do what we did in North Dakota, instead of like, oh, here's the choice school and here's an old — here's an old school, the old way with the Teachers Union, the kids are trapped. We made every school in North Dakota and innovation school. Every school got out from under the red tape and the things that helped teach the values that we're trying to get, like 4H like FFA —


BURGUM: — like boys scout.


PERINO: We love the 4H but we're going to move on.


BURGUM: — and by the way, North Dakota is now at the top of the median LSAT scores in the country right now.

CALDERON: Vice President Pence, the Department of Homeland Security warns that violence against LGBTQ plus people is on the rise and intensifying, according to a recent study, members of that community are nine times more likely to be victims of violent hate crimes. As President, how would you protect this community from violent attacks and discrimination?

PENCE: Well, as President of the United States, I'll — I'll stand up for the safety and the civil liberties of every American, from every background. And I want the American people to know that. But I want to answer the question as well as, Dana, that you just asked Burgum. Because my way of full disclosure, Chris, you mentioned the President's situation. I — my wife isn't a member of the Teachers Union, but I got to admit I — I've been sleeping with a teacher for 38 years and a full disclosure. Look, education is a state and local function.

The state of Indiana had one of the very first school choice programs in the country, and when I was governor of the state of Indiana, we doubled that.

And as to your question, Dana, let's be very, very clear.


PENCE: When the Linn-Marr Community Schools in Iowa had a policy where you could — you had to have a permission if slip from your parents to get a Tylenol, but you could get a gender transition plan without notifying your parents, I weighed in with a foundation. That's not bad policy, that's crazy.

We're going to stand up for the rights of parents, and we're going to pass a federal ban on transgender chemical or surgical surgery anywhere in the country. We've got to protect our kids from this radical gender ideology agenda.

And we've got to empower parents at the state level with the ability to choose where their kids go to school, whether it's public, private, parochial or home school. You empower parents, and our schools will straighten up and reflect our values and focus on the basics faster than you could possibly imagine. [applause]

VARNEY: Next subject, China —


RAMASWAMY: Can I just say one thing?


VARNEY: China is investing — if you talk over everybody —


VARNEY: — we lose time.

China is investing heavily in their tech companies, $280 billion every year on semiconductor research and development. That is one CHIPS Act per year.

Governor DeSantis, you say companies like Google and Meta have too much power. Doesn't going after them give China an edge?

DESANTIS: No. I think you look at how our societies developed, they have huge amount of power over our society. They've cracked down on free speech.

We're not saying you don't want them to do business, but you want with it to be a free market. And right now, they're monopolies.

But this issue of China, I think, is really going to be fundamental. We have subcontracted out so much of our national needs to the CCP. We rely on them for a whole host of issues.

We need to reshore, and we need to decouple all those important industries. We need to get that back in the United States.

They are our top geopolitical adversary by a country mile. Xi Jinping's got huge ambitions not only in the Asian-Pacific, but as you mentioned earlier, in our region. But ultimately, we've got to beat them on the economy.

And so, that's what we'll do as president of the United States.

PERINO: Governor Christie, I want to follow up on this because 22 percent of American workers fear their jobs will be lost to a robot. And you said in the past that you — that the free market is the way to go.

Would you retrain workers who lose a job to artificial intelligence and to do what?

CHRISTIE: Well, look, what I think artificial intelligence offers us is an extraordinary opportunity to expand well beyond the productivity that we have now and to have Americans be able to be involved in that revolution, Dana.

You know, each time we have shown incredible innovation and progress in this country, what we've done with it is to expand all kinds of new, even un-thought of opportunities for folks. Yes, we have to do retraining for folks, who lose some of their jobs, and we should be doing that. And we should have more training available both at the county college level and the local level for people to be able to access it.

So, yes, I would be in favor of that. But this is a much bigger issue than that. We can't be afraid of innovation.

America has been the great innovator of this world over the last 250 years, a technological innovator, a manufacturing innovator, and a freedom and governmental innovator. And that's why America has to continue to stand strong in the world, pro-innovation, pro-progress.

And I would tell you this — as president of the United States, what I will do is to make sure that every innovator in this country gets the government the hell off its back and out of its pocket so that it can innovate and bring great new inventions to our country that will make everybody's lives better. [applause]

VARNEY: Mr. Ramaswamy, TikTok is banned on government-issued devices because of its ties to the Chinese government. Yet you joined TikTok after dinner with boxer and influencer Jake Paul.

Should the commander-in-chief be so easily persuade by an influencer?

RAMASWAMY: So the answer is I have a radical idea for the Republican Party. We need to win elections. And part of how we win elections is reaching the next generation of young Americans where they are.

So, when I get into office, I've been very clear — kids under the age of social — under the age of 16 should not be using addictive social media. We're only going to ever get to declaring independence from China, which I favor, if we actually win.

So while the Democrats are running rampant reaching the next generation three to one, there's exactly one person in the Republican Party which talks a big game about reaching young people, and that's me.

And let me level with all of you, I'm the new guy here, and so I know I have to earn your trust. What do you see? You see a young man who's in a bit of a hurry, maybe a little ambitious, bit of a know-it-all, it seems, at times.

I'm here to tell you, no, I don't know it all. I will listen. I will have the best people, the best and brightest in this country, whatever age they are, advising me. We will be, probably many of the people on this stage included, that's how I built my companies.

I want to be challenged. I want people who disagree with me. That's what makes America great because we're not a perfect nation. We're founded on the pursuit of perfection. That is what makes America great. [bell rings] And that is why we will end it once we win this election.

BURGUM: I have to jump in here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Mr. Ramaswamy was speaking.

BURGUM: I'm sorry. I have to. There's one person —

HALEY: This is infuriating because TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media apps that we could have and what you've got — honestly, every time I hear you I feel a little bit dumber for what you say because I can't believe they hear you got a TikTok situation.

RAMASWAMY: Governor Haley, if I may?

HALEY: What they're doing is 150 million people are on TikTok. That means they can get your contacts. They can get your financial information. They can get your e-mails. They can get text messages. They can get all of these things.

RAMASWAMY: Let me just say. This is important.

HALEY: China knows exactly what they are doing.

RAMASWAMY: This is very important for our party. This is very important to our party and I'm going to say it. We should stop — we will —

HALEY: And what we've seen it you've gone and you want China go make medicines in China, not America?

RAMASWAMY: Excuse me.

HALEY: You now wanted kids to go and get on this social media that's dangerous for all of us? You were in business with the Chinese that gave Hunter Biden $5 million. We can't trust you.

RAMASWAMY: So let me —

HALEY: We can't trust you. We can't have TikTok.

RAMASWAMY: Let me say something. I think that —


VARNEY: Mr. Ramaswamy, you have 15 seconds.

RAMASWAMY: Thank you. I think — excuse me.

[cheers and applause]

VARNEY: You have 15 seconds, Mr. Ramaswamy.

RAMASWAMY: Thank you. I think we will be better served as a Republican Party if we're not sitting here hurling personal insults and actually have a legitimate debate about policy, following Reagan's 11th commandment in his honor.

BURGUM: He wasn't there four weeks ago.

HALEY: Where were you last debate when —

RAMASWAMY: And the answer is that is what actually makes our country strong, and I believe, I believe in these people. These are good people on this stage.

PERINO: Governor DeSantis, I have a question for you.

RAMASWAMY: They disagree but let's have a legitimate disagreement. That's what I would say.

PERINO: Thank you.

BURGUM: Stuart, can we go back to the question? The question is on technology.

PERINO: Governor — no, we cannot. Governor DeSantis, I'm going straight —

BURGUM: There's one person on this stage that has a career on technology.

PERINO: Sir, we will have to cut your mic and I don't want to do that. I don't.

So, Governor DeSantis, let me go to you. Experts say President Putin has ordered assassinations across Europe, cheated on arms control treaties with the U.S. and seeks to work with China to force our decline.

President Reagan believed that if you want to prevent a war, you better be prepared to fight one. Today the Republican Party is at odds over aid to Ukraine. The price tag so far is $76 billion. But is it in our best interest to degrade Russia's military for less than 5 percent of what we pay annually on defense especially when there are no U.S. soldiers in the fight?

DESANTIS: It is in our interest to the end this war, and that's what I will do as president. We are not going to have a blank check. We will not have U.S. troops. We are going to make the Europeans do what they need to do. But they've sent money to pay bureaucrats' pensions and salaries and funding small businesses halfway around the world. Meanwhile, our own country is being invaded.

We don't even have control of our own territory. We have got to defend the American people before we even worry about all these other things. And I watch these guys in Washington, D.C. and they don't care about the American people. They don't care about the fentanyl deaths. They don't care about the communities being overrun because of this border. They don't care about the Mexican drug cartels.

So as commander-in-chief, I will defend this country's sovereignty.


HALEY: But it's not a territorial dispute. It's never been a territorial dispute.

SCOTT: And 90 percent of the resources that we send over that Ukraine is guaranteed as a loan. It is not 90 percent of the money that we send over there is loan. We could talk about this. But at the end of the day, 90 percent of the money that we send over there is actually —

DESANTIS: We're not going to get it back.

SCOTT: It's not actually going to be paid by Ukraine. It's paid by the NATO, our NATO allies. Number one. Number two —

RAMASWAMY: So I think this is a good topic. It's a good topic for debate.

SCOTT: I think it's a really good topic, too. I will say, let's debate the fact that our national vital interests is in degrading the Russian military. By degrading the Russian military, we actually keep our homeland safer, we keep our troops at home, and we all understand Article Five of NATO. When in fact —

RAMASWAMY: We have to level with the American people on this.

SCOTT: I thought you said something about waiting until your turn to talk. So [inaudible]. So at the end of the day —


I'm going to finish my — I'll be happy to debate you.

RAMASWAMY: Go ahead, then I'll respond.

SCOTT: I look forward to this one right now. So at the end of the day, when you think about the fact, if you want to keep American troops at home, the attack on NATO territory would bring us and our troops in. By degrading the Russian military, we reduce if not eliminate ... [bell rings] ... an attack on NATO territories.


RAMASWAMY: If I may, finish that exchange. We have to level with the American people. We have to level with the American people on this issue. The reality is just because —

PENCE: We are leveling with the American people.

RAMASWAMY: Just because Putin is not an evil — Putin is an evil dictator does not mean that Ukraine is good.

This is a country that has banned 11 opposition parties, that has actually...

HALEY: A win for Russia is a win for China.

RAMASWAMY: That is not true. We're driving Russia...

HALEY: A win for Russia is a win for China.

RAMASWAMY: Excuse me. Excuse me. If you have a chance — you will have...

HALEY: But I forgot. You like China. That's why you're... [laughter]


RAMASWAMY: Nope. You will have your chance in just a moment.


RAMASWAMY: The hurling personal insults isn't helping.

China is the real enemy. And we're driving Russia further into China's arms. We need a reasonable peace plan to end this, especially — this is a country whose president just last week was hailing a Nazi in his own ranks.

[bell rings]

PENCE: Vivek, if you let Putin have Ukraine, that's a green light to China to take Taiwan. Peace comes through strength.


RAMASWAMY: We need a reasonable plan to peace. We need a reasonable plan to peace.

VARNEY: Governor Christie...

RAMASWAMY: The Communist China of Party is the real enemy.


VARNEY: Governor Christie, President — Governor Christie, President Biden's first two years have brought China, Russia, and Iran closer together.

Are we focused too much on Ukraine, and not enough on this threat from the new world order?

CHRISTIE: No, they're all connected, Stuart. They're all connected.

The Chinese are paying for the Russian war in Ukraine. The Iranians are supplying more sophisticated weapons, and so are the North Koreans now as well, with the encouragement of the Chinese.

The naivete on this stage from some of these folks is extraordinary.

Look, I understand people want to go and talk to Putin. Guess what? So did George W. Bush. So did Barack Obama. So did Donald Trump. And so did Joe Biden, when he said a small invasion wouldn't be so bad. Every one of them has been wrong.

And the fact of the matter is, we need to say right now that the Chinese-Russian alliance is something we have to fight against. And we are not going to solve it by going over and cuddling up to Vladimir Putin.

Look, Donald Trump said Vladimir Putin was brilliant and a great leader. This is the person who is murdering people in his own country. And now, not having enough blood, he's now going to Ukraine to murder innocent civilians and kidnap 20,000 children.

And let me tell you, if you think that's where it's going to stop, if we give him any of Ukraine, next will be Poland.

[bell rings]


This is a guy who said — wait one second.

This is a guy in 1991 who said that was the darkest moment in world history when the Soviet Union fell. Listen, everybody, he wants to put the old band back together. And only America can stop it. And when I'm president, we will. [applause]

PERINO: Governor Burgum — I want to get to Governor Burgum. He hasn't had a chance.

I have a question I think you're going to really like, or at least you have experience in it. And we need to talk about America's farmers, because there is a foreign policy connection here. The U.S. and China are in this fierce economic competition. It's hurting American businesses. And there is blowback against American farmers, because China then targets them in retaliation.

How would you, as president, protect American farmers and ranchers from that kind of retaliation from a foreign government like China?

BURGUM: Well, first of all, we have got the best farmers and ranchers in the world right here in America. If they have a level playing field, they can outcompete anyone in the world.

But this is part of the larger issue that we're talking about here, which is, we're in a cold war with China. The Biden administration won't admit that. But we're also in a economic war through what we're doing with agriculture and energy. And we're also in a war with them relative to cyber war.

We get attacked every day in North Dakota, every state, every school district, our tribes all being attacked every day by either China, Russia, Iran, or North Korea. And now we have got a Biden administration whose whole policy is appeasement. They're out there creating the world, making it less safe.

Six billion dollars they traded for five people. They have just now set a price on anyone's head who's a tourist from America, who's a student from America for kidnapping. If you want more kidnapping, put a price on it. And then that's — and they're also helping Iran get to have more — closer to nuclear weapon, then which pushes all of the Middle East closer to China and Russia.

The whole thing is absurd. And then, of course, we're going to give Ukraine to Russia, and then we're going to give Taiwan to China, and think that's a foreign policy? That will make our nation less — less successful, make us more poor.

And at the core of all that is energy policy, because China imports 10 million barrels of oil a day. They're the largest import in the world. And we have had four Cabinet members from the Biden administration there this summer, and none of them talked about U.S. energy.

The first one to go to each of those countries was Kerry to talk about the folly of the climate — climate policy, which is making the world less stable. It's empowering dictators. It's not about climate change that we need to be worried about. It's about the Biden climate policies that are actually the existential threat to America's future.

PENCE: Ilia, can I speak about China?

CALDERON: Governor Haley... [applause] ... Mexico's president called who supports sending U.S. military into the country — quote — "scoundrels."

Mexico is the United States' most important trade partner in border security. You say you will send special operations to attack the cartels in Mexico. So, this means boots on the ground, drone strikes?

HALEY: It means special operations. It's how we deal with our terrorists. And what you need to do is understand that Mexico's not being a good partner if we lost 75,000 Americans last year. Mexico's not being a good partner if they're letting the cartels get away with what they're getting away with.

What we will do is we will make sure that we send in our special operations and we will take out the cartels; we'll take out their operations; we'll take out anything that's doing it.

But we're going to go after China because China is the one sending the Fentanyl in the first place. And we will end all normal trade relations until China stops sending Fentanyl. And then we'll do the special operations and we'll get it from both sides.

This is where President Trump went wrong. He focused on trade with China. He didn't focus on the fact that they were buying up our farmland. He didn't focus on the fact that they were killing Americans. He didn't focus on the fact that they were stealing $600 billion in intellectual property. He didn't focus on the fact that they put a spy base off our shores in Cuba.

They didn't focus enough on the fact that all of our law enforcement drones in America are Chinese. And we've got all these little surveillance cells. We need to start focusing on what keeps Americans safe. That hasn't happened in a long time. As your president, I will make sure every American is safe, and we'll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

PERINO: All right... [applause] ... I want to get to Senator Scott. [applause]

You're all auditioning for the job as president of the United States. You want to earn these votes. But the world's problems land in the Oval Office. During the presidential debates in the year 2000, neither Al Gore nor George W. Bush was asked about Al Qaida. Yet, just one year later, Al Qaida's attack on September 11th claimed nearly 3,000 lives. And the farther we get from September 11th, the closer we are to September 10th.

Senator Scott, you have no executive branch experience. What has prepared you to protect the nation from a major man-made national security crisis?

SCOTT: Well, one of the things I've had the good fortune of doing is serving on committees in the United States Senate like the Senate Armed Services Committee. I'm on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I'm also on the Finance Committee and the Banking Committee.

You talk about addressing the issue of Fentanyl. I've written the legislation, passed it through the Banking Committee and the Senate that would freeze the assets and sanction the accounts of the Mexican cartels. There are weapons that we have within the arsenal that I was able to get passed, 23-0, in the polarizing Senate, as it is.

I've also understood without question the fact that, if you look at the details before 9/11, there was information and intelligence that was available that suggested an attack was coming. Having the right intelligence partners with us is key to making sure that we prevent the next 9/11 from ever happening. Having that experience for the last 10 years is really important in getting the job done.

PERINO: Thirty seconds to you, Mr. Pence?

PENCE: Well, I think you asked a question about executive experience, and I think it's vitally important.

And I stand before you today as a candidate for president because I think this country's in a lot of trouble. And you hear the fire on the stage tonight. You hear the fire in all of our voices. And it's because Joe Biden has weakened this country at home and abroad. This is a time for those of us that have the experience, the tested experience and a commitment to the conservative agenda that Ronald Reagan brought forward in this party of a strong national defense, standing with our allies, standing up to our enemies, supporting limited government and traditional values, need to step forward...

PERINO: Understood.

PENCE: Because, frankly, our — our party does face a time for choosing, as they said at the top of this debate, whether we're going to stand on the foundation of that conservative agenda that Ronald Reagan poured or whether we're going to follow the siren song of populism unmoored to conservative principles. I'm...

PERINO: And now it is a time for...

PENCE: ... the most experienced, most qualified and most consistent conservative in this field, and I'm ready to lead...

PERINO: All right.

PENCE: ... America at home and abroad on day one.

PERINO: It is now a time for choosing to go to a break. Ilia?

CALDERON: We need to go to a commercial break. Ronald Reagan built a coalition that lasted decades. Can any of these candidates do the same? We'll take that up, when the debate continues. [applause]

[commercial break]

VARNEY: Welcome back to the Republican Primary Debate here at the Reagan Library. We've got a lot more issues to cover, and a lot more questions to go. So let's dive right back in.

We're here in California where gas is nearing $6 a gallon, oil is close to $100 a barrel again. You say drill, baby, drill, but the courts won't let you. Mr. Ramaswamy, how would you bring down prices without immediate drilling?

RAMASWAMY: Well, look, I think that we do have to run through the courts and get through that administrative state to make sure we're using the Natural Resources here at home. But here's the other thing that we can do that's easy —

VARNEY: Thanks for [inaudible] Mr. Ramaswamy.

RAMASWAMY: And it addresses the national debt as well as brings down prices. Put people back to work. We are using taxpayer money to pay people more to stay at home than to go to work. That is wrong, that contributes to our supply chain crisis. It contributes to inflation. That's the easiest way to unlock this economy.

And here's the other thing. We have to put the Federal Reserve back in its place. This is an agency that has gone rogue. So in January 2026 when I have the opportunity is there next commander in chief, we will have a new chairman of the Federal Reserve who placed his priority on dollar stability and then, most importantly, send packing 75% of the administrative state, reduce the federal employee headcount by 75%, rescind 50% of unconstitutional federal regulations that are shackling businesses, both large and small.

I've offered a very clear practical plan to do it. That's how we unleash the economy, that's how we revive the integrity of a three branch Constitutional Republic —

VARNEY: Vice President —

RAMASWAMY: — rather than this technocracy and aristocracy —

VARNEY: — Pence, your response, please.

PENCE: I think one of the signature accomplishments of our administration was in just a few short years, we achieved energy independence, we became a net exporter of energy for the first time in 75 years. [cheering and applause]

But on day one, Joe Biden declared a war on energy, which was no surprise because when Joe Biden ran for president, he said he was going to end fossil fuels. And they've been working overtime to do that, ever since.

If I'm President of the United States, we're going to open up federal lands. We're going to unleash American energy. We're going to have an all of the above energy strategy, and I have a plan that actually would not only reclaim energy independence, but in 2006, America lost our position as the leading energy producer on Earth. I believe in the next 10 years with the right policies and an experienced leadership in the White House, we can reclaim our role as the leading energy producer on Earth, and that'll grow the American economy for generations to come.

VARNEY: Governor Haley, reactions to that, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: — also versus leading an energy state, could I answer the energy, please?

PERINO: No, Governor Haley.

HALEY: So, you know, the first thing I'll say is what I saw at the United Nations is national — energy security's national security. We need a president that understands we have to partner with our producers and make sure that they — we have their backs. What you don't need is a president who is against energy independence. Ron DeSantis is against fracking. He's against drilling. He's been against — you did it, every — he always talks about what happens on day one, you better watch out because what happens on day two is when you're in trouble. Day two in Florida, you ban fracking, you ban offshore drilling.

DESANTIS: That is not true.

HALEY: You did it on federal lands, and you took green subsidies that you didn't have to take. It is true, look at day two.

VARNEY: Governor DeSantis, you would mentioned, you have the right to respond 30 seconds.

DESANTIS: Yeah. I just did a plan out in West Texas for American energy dominance. We're going to choose Midland over Moscow. We're going to choose the Marcellus over the Molas and we're going to choose Bakken over Beijing. And we are going to lower your gas prices. We are going to get that job done. Because it's important for our national security, it's important for jobs. And that's one of the best ways to drive down inflation.

VARNEY: Governor DeSantis —


Governor DeSantis, this question is for you —

DESANTIS: — our voters enacted a constitutional amendment —

HALEY: You banned it before they voted.

DESANTIS: That doesn't allow — no, it's not true.

HALEY: You banned it before they voted.

DESANTIS: No, Nikki —

HALEY: And not only that, fracking —

DESANTIS: — you're not — you're not —

HALEY: They didn't vote on fracking.

DESANTIS: She is just totally wrong, they voted —

HALEY: Check it. Check it.

DESANTIS: — that's what we did. On shore, we do — do it in Florida. We don't have as much as maybe West Texas, but we do it. But that was a constitution. So that's just wrong. And let's just get real here. My plan will get the job done. We are going to be energy dominant. And that's what's going to happened.

HALEY: HALEY: You banned it before, the voters even voted — and the voters didn't even vote on fracking, you banned fracking.


VARNEY: Moving on with this question for Governor DeSantis, Governor — excuse me, we cannot talk over each other, we must respect each other's time.


DESANTIS: I'm ready, Stuart, go ahead.

VARNEY: Governor DeSantis, this is your question. The Biden administration is hell bent on student loan forgiveness. But you say colleges should be on the hook when graduates cannot pay their debt? How does that address the cost of college — how does that, the cost of college itself?

DESANTIS: Because the colleges are going to have to make a decision. Do we offer, do we expand the Gender Studies Department? No one in some of those graduates may not have great learning of these know. They're going to focus on the things that really matter. They're going to make different choices. They're going to try to graduate people in four years.

I also just want to come back on Dana asked last segment about 9/11. Because I was just at the 9/11 Memorial with the families. My wife, and everybody's very touching to be there. And it affected my life because I ended up joining the military as a result of that. I've been a blue-collar kid, minimum wage and done in Florida. I ended up getting through Yale and Harvard Law School and somehow came out more conservative than when I went in. And that is not easy to do, had a lot of opportunities to make money.

But I wanted to serve and I'll never forget coming back on the plane from Iraq, landing in Coronado, California, North Island, and feeling that breeze off the Pacific Ocean say, you know what, I am lucky to have been born and American. And I think being able to serve and I'll be the first president elected since 1988, was actually served overseas in a war. I think that's going to help me as Commander in Chief, to know how you see these issues and understand that there are real lives at stake for people that wear the uniform.

PERINO: Yeah, we know that Governor Haley's husband is serving right now as well. And we thank him for that.

Senator Scott, the national debt is nearly doubled in your time in office. The approval rate for Congress is at a mere 19%. If this were a business, you'd probably all be fired in Washington, but you're here tonight looking for a promotion. In 2013, Governor Haley, new for the Senate, I'd like you to tell her why you should be promoted to CEO of the nation instead of her?

SCOTT: Certainly. One of the things I'd say is if you look at our national debt of $33 trillion, I would love to have an opportunity to have this country pass a balanced budget amendment. That would constrain the spending in Washington in the same fashion that it does at every state in our nation, number one.

Number two, if you want to actually reduce our national debt, you have to grow our economy. In order to grow our economy, you need to create about 10 million jobs to grow our economy at 5 percent.

You can do that in three specific sectors. Number one, the energy sector. We could create between 3 and 3-1/2 million jobs if we unleashed all of our energy resources. America is the most — we're the richest country if you combine coal, gases and oil. Why not unleash all of our resources?

Number two, we've lost 100,000 factories, 100,000 factories in the last 25 years. If we continue with my Made in America plan, we could bring jobs back to America in a similar fashion that we did when I wrote the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

We actually lowered the corporate tax from 35 percent to 21 percent. Reshore or repatraited $1.7 trillion. We brought the unemployment rates for African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians to the lowest level in the history of the country.

PERINO: Governor Haley —

SCOTT: And a 70-year low for women.

PERINO: Governor Haley, would you think — you think you would deserve the promotion over him.

HALEY: Look, I appreciate Tim. We've known each other a long time.

But he's been there 12 years, and he hasn't done any of that. He hasn't — they've only given four budgets on time in 40 years. He is part of that.


SCOTT: Tax Cuts and jobs Act, the biggest of all the tax cuts in the history —

HALEY: He's increased the national debt. He voted for the spending. He has made sure that the borders are open —


SCOTT: You voted for — you actually asked for a gas tax increase in South Carolina.


HALEY: Twelve years, where have you been? Where have you been, Tim?

SCOTT: I voted no on all —


HALEY: Twelve years. We've waited, and nothing has happened, 12 years.

DESANTIS: Here's the thing that I just find interesting. Let me respond —

SCOTT: Ron, Ron, let me finish first.

DESANTIS: All these guys have said some things...

SCOTT: Here's the fact.

DESANTIS: — and I appreciate a lot of the things they're saying.

SCOTT: Nikki Haley —

DESANTIS: I'm the only one up here who's gotten in the big fights and has delivered big victories for the people of Florida. And that's what it's all about. [cheering]

You can always talk, but when it gets hot in there, when they're shooting arrows at you, are you going to stand up for parents' rights, keep the state free? Are you going to be able to do all those things?

And in the state of Florida, because of our success, the Democratic Party lies in ruins. We have won the big fights. We have turned our state into a Republican state.

People respond to leadership. I've done it while others have talked about it.


SCOTT: Can I answer the question —

RAMASWAMY: If I may just briefly interject here.


SCOTT: — opportunity of my 30 seconds.

RAMASWAMY: We need a zero-based budgeting. That's the way businesses are actually run.

SCOTT: Tax cuts —

RAMASWAMY: Start with zero as the baseline for the budget and then see what's actually necessary. There isn't a blue state or a red state in this union that does it. The federal government doesn't do it.

But successful companies, including the ones that I've built as a CEO —


PERINO: I think that Governor Burgum would disagree with you, though. I would think — Governor Burgum runs a state.

BURGUM: Can I have second?

PERINO: Yes, go ahead.

BURGUM: You have tech questions, you didn't ask the only guy that's been in tech. You have energy questions, you don't ask anything, but I'm just going to say right now — when you say nobody else has done it, the energy plans that have all been announced in the last month by these other folks on stage, we're already doing it in North Dakota.

The border plans that they all talk about, we've got troops down at the border flying helicopter missions from North Dakota, from San Diego to the Gulf Coast trying to stop transnational criminal organizations from inflicting the invasion and the mass casualties in our state.

And on the energy policy, we're already doing it. It's not saying, nobody else done the big fights. North Dakota was leading the charge. We've won the battle to get — the Biden administration was ignoring the law. They were the first administration since Truman that wasn't holding the quarterly required lease sales, and we won that in federal court.

"WOTUS", we won that in federal court. We're fighting the Biden administration on 20 fronts.

To say that nobody's fighting the big fights, just look at the record of what we're doing right now. Energy, economy, national security, been talking about it since day one and now finally, good, we're having the conversation about it, but we've got the answer in North Dakota. [applause]

VARNEY: Governor Burgum, let's talk big government. This question's for you.

Big government keeps getting bigger. One-fifth of all new jobs this year have been created by the government. Governor Burgum, you want to shrink the size of government, but it has been a century since any president has been done that.

Why would you be any different?

BURGUM: Well, because we're doing — we're doing — we've done it in North Dakota.

When I took office, we shrunk the state budget general fund by 27 percent in the first four months I was in office, and we have all the trains running on time. Why? Because you had a business leader that was actually there.

Inside of every government job, there's 10 or 20 percent of mind-numbing, soul-sucking work that even the state and federal employees don't want to do. And you could engineer that work out of a job. That would be free up right there, 20 percent of 2 million civilian employees.

And, by the way, we've got 10 million jobs open. They'd have plenty to do. And they could be generating taxes instead of being paid by taxes.

This is totally possible to do it if you have somebody that understands, that having worked in technology for 30 years, everything we have to do was to be better, faster, cheaper the next day. That's what we can do in government. That's what we're doing in North Dakota.

PERINO: All right. Governor DeSantis — [applause]

I want to ask you about something that I think is on a lot of Republicans' minds. This election could come down to less than 50,000 votes in three states. Abortion was on the ballot in six states in 2022. Republicans lost all of them. Next year, abortion will likely be on the ballot in Arizona. That is a must-win state.

Governor DeSantis, how are you going to win over independent pro-choice voters in Arizona?

DESANTIS: Same way we did in Florida. We won the greatest Republican victory in a governor's race. In the history of the state, over 1.5 million votes. We were winning places like Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach, that nobody thought was possible because we were leading with purpose and conviction.

I reject this idea that pro-lifers are to blame for midterm defeats. I think there's other reasons for that. The former president, you know, he is missing in action tonight. He's had a lot to say about that. He should be here explaining his comments to try to say that pro-life protections are somehow a terrible thing.

I want him to look into the eyes and tell people who have been fighting this fight for a long time I was at — my wife and I earlier today were at the gravesite of President and Mrs. Reagan and I noticed that there was a quote where it says, every single person has purpose and worth. We're better off when everybody counts, and I think we should stand for what we believe in.

I think we should hold the Democrats accountable for their extremism, supporting abortion all the way up until the moment of birth. That is infanticide and that is wrong.


PERINO: Let me ask Governor Christie — Governor Christie, do you think the Republican —

SCOTT: Are you doing it with [inaudible] week limit?

PERINO: Governor Christie, do you think that —

DESANTIS: Yes, I will.

SCOTT: Thank you.

PERINO: OK. Governor Christie, do you think the Republicans can do that in Arizona if this referendum is on the ballot there?

CHRISTIE: Yes, because I did it in New Jersey, Dana. You know it's —

PERINO: Then why are all these other states losing?

CHRISTIE: Well, because they don't have leaders in those days who are leading the fight the way it should be led. And the fact is, look, I was a governor here of the only blue state that's represented up here. This is where the fight is really tough for Republicans. And those are the states that we're going to have to try to win if we are going to win the White House back.

And what we did is 14 times, Dana, in eight years, I vetoed Planned Parenthood funding. 14 times. No one else gets it that much. The Democrats just kept sending it to me, and I kept saying no because I believe in life. But I also believe in state's rights. And I think we fought hard against Roe versus Wade for decades to say that states should make these decisions.

So we're going to have those parts in the states. But what you need is a leader who could talk to people and make them understand that if you're pro-life, you have to be pro-life for the entire life, not just the nine months in the womb.

And we talked a lot about fentanyl tonight, and we haven't spoken one moment about treatment. But we need to make sure that for the drug addicted 16-year-old on the floor of the county lockup, her life is precious, too. And we need to be providing treatment to cure this as a disease that it is. If you're pro-life you've got to be pro-life for the entire life.

We start talking like that, they're going to do what I did in the blue state, which was get re-elected with 61 percent of the vote and won 70 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Latinos because I told them the truth from my heart.

[bell rings]

PERINO: Thank you. [applause]

CALDERON: Vice President Pence, the latest poll found that 73 percent of Latino voters think the Republican Party doesn't care about or is being hostile toward them. The Hispanic community. Only Governor DeSantis has translated his campaign into Spanish. How will you reach out to Latino voters?

PENCE: Well, I promise you that we're going to continue to build bridges to every community in this country. And I'm incredibly proud of that. Tax cuts and tax reform bill. I worked on Capitol Hill to help get that bill passed into law. The largest tax cut in American history. We saw literally the lowest unemployment ever recorded for Hispanic Americans. The lowest unemployment ever recorded for African-Americans. 50-year low for women.

So I think the president of the United States needs to be a champion for the American dream for every American. It begins with the unborn, and the aging and the infirmed. And it begins with every ethnic group in this country. And I promise you if I'm president of the United States, I will be a champion. I will be a champion for the American dream. For Hispanic Americans and for every American, so help me God.

CALDERON: Senator Scott, your reaction?

SCOTT: Yes. There's no doubt that if you lead by example, it's the best way to get the job done. If you look at my office in the Senate, my chief of staff is the only Hispanic female chief of staff in the Senate. I hired her because she was the best highest qualified person we have. What we need are leaders who lead by example.

And I will simply say, I would love to finish my conversation with Nikki as it relates to the job that needs to get done.

Nikki offered a 10 percent — 10 cent gas tax increase in South Carolina. Talk about someone who has never seen a federal dollar she doesn't like, 10 cents on this gallon in South Carolina. As the U.N. ambassador, you literally...

HALEY: Bring it, yes. [laughter]

SCOTT: ... put $50,000 on curtains and a $15 million subsidized location.


HALEY: You got bad information.

First of all, I fought the gas tax in South Carolina multiple times, against the establishment.

SCOTT: Just go to You — just go to YouTube. You just go to YouTube and see it for yourself.

HALEY: And you know what that 10-cent was?


HALEY: When they wouldn't pass the gas tax, the establishment and the companies wanted me to do it so much that I said, the only way I will pass it, if you will give us three...

SCOTT: Here's what all you have to do, all you have to do. All you have to do...

HALEY: Excuse me. If you will give...

SCOTT: ... is go watch Nikki Haley on YouTube.

PERINO: Senator, let her finish.


HALEY: If you will give me three times the deduction in income tax, then I will look at your gas tax.

SCOTT: So, you said yes. You...


HALEY: Which is why it didn't happen.



SCOTT: Exactly.


HALEY: Secondly — secondly, on the $15 million...


SCOTT: Here is — here is a nice part.

HALEY: Secondly, on the curtains...


HALEY: ... do your homework, Tim, because Obama bought those curtains.

SCOTT: Did you send them back?

HALEY: And it's in the press.

SCOTT: Did you send them back?

HALEY: It's the State Department.

SCOTT: Did you send them back?

HALEY: Did you send them back? You're the one that works in Congress.

SCOTT: Oh, my gosh.

HALEY: You get it done.

SCOTT: You hung them on your — your curtains.

HALEY: I — they were there before I even showed up at the residence.

You are scrapping. You are scrapping.


SCOTT: Here's the fact. Here's the fact, though.

HALEY: I cut taxes.


SCOTT: You wanted a gas tax increase, and then you wanted...


PERINO: Cue the music.


VARNEY: Ladies and gentlemen, we — we do not intend to go ahead like this.


In fact, we are about to take a commercial break.

We will have more of the second Republican debate live from the Reagan Presidential Library in just a few moments.

[commercial break]

PERINO: And welcome back to the final minutes. I could go another hour, but we only have a few minutes.

And candidates, it's now obvious that if you all stay, in the race, former President Donald Trump wins the nomination. None of you have indicated that you're dropping out. So, which one of you, on stage, tonight, should be voted off the island?

[audience laughter]

PERINO: Please use your marker, to write your choice, on the notepad, in front of you. 15 seconds, starting now. Of the people on the stage, who should be voted —

HALEY: Are you serious?

PERINO: I am absolutely serious.

DESANTIS: I'll decline to do that, with all due respect.


DESANTIS: I mean, we're here, like, we're happy to debate.



DESANTIS: I think that that's disrespectful to my fellow competitors, yes.

SCOTT: I'm not doing it.

HALEY: I'm not doing it.

PERINO: Nobody wants to —

RAMASWAMY: I think most —

PERINO: Nobody wants to participate?

RAMASWAMY: I think most —

DESANTIS: Let's do some questions. [applause]

It's not the best, for future of the country. [applause]

RAMASWAMY: I'll answer it. I want to be — I want to be clear about this.

PERINO: Let me ask you this.


PERINO: Let me —

RAMASWAMY: If I may answer this?

PERINO: And let me ask you something.


PERINO: Let me — then if you won't answer that question, let me ask you this one.


PERINO: What is your mathematical path?


PERINO: Governor DeSantis? In order to try to beat President Trump, who has a commanding and enduring lead, in this race?

DESANTIS: So, polls don't elect presidents. Voters elect presidents.

PENCE: That's right.

DESANTIS: And we're going to take the case to the people, in these early states. We're going to do it in a state-by-state direction. And why? Because, as Reagan said, in his day, this is our time for choosing.

We are not getting a mulligan, on the 2024 election. Republicans have lost three straight elections, in a row. We were supposed to have a red wave, with inflation at 9 percent. It crashed and burned. Not in Florida, it didn't. We delivered it in Florida.

And so, we've got to choose, right. We've got to win. And we need somebody that's going to be able to serve two terms, so, in January of 2023 they'll be able to address the nation, saying —

PERINO: Right.

DESANTIS: — "We turned the economy around, and we secured the border, and we fended off the threat, from communist China." As your president, I will get that job done.

VARNEY: Governor Christie?


RAMASWAMY: I think about —

VARNEY: I believe I did see you write something.

RAMASWAMY: Everybody. Everybody —

VARNEY: Governor Christie, I believe — excuse me.


VARNEY: Governor Christie, I believe I did see you write something on the card.


[audience laughter]

No, but I'll certainly tell you.

VARNEY: Go ahead.



CHRISTIE: Look, I think I've been the only one, on the stage that's has been clear about this. I vote Donald Trump off the island, right now. And the reason I vote him off the island, and the — but —

VARNEY: Did any of the people on the stage [inaudible]?

CHRISTIE: No. No, because you know what? Every person, on this stage, has shown the respect, for Republican voters, to come here, to express their views honestly, candidly, and directly, and to take your questions, honestly. [applause]

I have respect, for every man, and woman, on this stage. Because if not — and Vivek, put your hand down, for a second. Would you?

[audience laughter]

I still got —

RAMASWAMY: [inaudible].

CHRISTIE: I still got time dude, so chill out.

Here, look, this guy has not only divided our party. He's divided families, all over this country. He's divided friends, all over this country. I've spoken to people, and I know everyone else has, who have sat, at Thanksgiving dinner, or at a birthday party, and can't have a conversation anymore —

PERINO: Right.

VARNEY: Governor?

CHRISTIE: — if they disagree with Donald Trump.

VARNEY: Governor and candidates?

CHRISTIE: He needs to be voted off the island.

PERINO: We'll give Vivek, 15 seconds.

CHRISTIE: And he needs to be taken out of this process.

VARNEY: You have 15 seconds.

PERINO: Vivek?

VARNEY: You have 15 seconds, Vivek.

RAMASWAMY: I appreciate it, Dana.

Look, I have a different view on this. I think Trump was an excellent president. But the America First agenda does not belong to one man. It does not belong to Donald Trump. It doesn't belong to me. It belongs to you, the people of this country.

And the question is, who's going to unite this country and take the America first agenda to the next level?

When we rallied behind the cry to make America great again, we did not just hunger for a single man. We hungered for the unapologetic pursuit of excellence.

VARNEY: Mr. Ramaswamy, your 15 seconds are up.

RAMASWAMY: So, yes, I will — I will respect Donald Trump and his legacy, because it's the right thing to do.


RAMASWAMY: But we will unite this country to take the America first agenda to the next level.

VARNEY: And that — that — that does it.

RAMASWAMY: And that will take a different generation to do it.


VARNEY: That does it. I repeat, that does it...[cheering and applause]... for the second Republican primary debate live from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

PERINO: Thank you to all the candidates. We have loved having you here tonight.

And we will see you out on the campaign trail.

CALDERON: Have a great evening. Thank you for joining us, everyone. [cheering and applause]

Good night. Buenas noches.

Presidential Candidate Debates, Republican Candidates Debate in Simi Valley, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/367104

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