Several Republican voters took to social media to express their frustrations over the second GOP primary debate, with some declaring former President Donald Trump as the rightful pick for the 2024 election.
Seven GOP candidates took the stage in Simi Valley, California, Wednesday evening. Trump was notably absent from the pack, instead addressing supporters at an autoworkers rally near Detroit.
The two-hour forum was full of chaotic moments, with Republican hopefuls often speaking over one another or hurling personal attacks. The moderators of the event, which was hosted by Fox Business Network and Univision, were often ignored when they attempted to gain control of the debate.
Johnny Joey Jones, a military analyst on the Fox News network, also declared Trump the winner of the debate on his X account, writing in one post that the candidates who participated showed “themselves to be a product of [Washington] DC.”
“Stumbling through a rehearsed numeric fact, stating a zinger in reverse, randomly blurting out a calculated tag line…none of these folks have the comfort and style Trump has,” Jones wrote. “People want that. They’re showing themselves to be a product of DC, people want a disruptor [of] DC.”
“Only time in history someone has won a presidential debate without being there,” Gorka wrote. “TWICE.”
Radio talk show host and conservative commentator Buck Sexton posted to X throughout Wednesday’s debate, and repeatedly condemned the candidates onstage.
“So far nobody looking great at this debate, some people are looking like rude clowns,” Sexton wrote in one post.
“Apparently consultants told the politicians on stage they should avoid being charming or funny tonight,” he added in another.
Republican pollster Frank Luntz offered a new format idea for future debates in light of Wednesday’s dysfunction, suggesting that candidates instead be offered anywhere from 90 seconds up to two minutes of time to answer questions. In the current format, participants are given a minute to answer questions and 30 seconds for follow-ups.
“This current format is absurd,” Luntz wrote to X. “If we want real answers to real questions, we must have a debate format that encourages substance over sound bites.”
Royce Hood, an analyst at the conservative American First Policy Institute, also offered some suggestions for future debates.
“Just one debate without platitudes or clearly rehearsed talking points,” Hood posted. “Just do a forum on a small soundstage, no audience, just talking policy. Hard time limits. 5 candidates max. Please.”
Prior to the second debate, Trump was leading his closest rival in the primary race—Florida Governor Ron DeSantis—by nearly 40 points, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. Other candidates were battling for third place, including former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.
Newsweek reached out to the Republican National Committee via email for comment Wednesday evening.