Takeaways from the second Republican presidential debate, which made no dent in Trump’s lead

Shame on the moderators for not bringing up Trump’s significant legal woes.

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Seven candidates onstage during the second Republican Primary Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Seven rivals hit at each other during the second Republican Primary Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

WASHINGTON – No one had a breakout moment at the second Republican presidential debate. Nothing happened to significantly throw former President Donald Trump off the road to winning the GOP presidential nomination.

And no one — neither the three moderators nor the seven contenders, except for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who made a very brief mention — wanted to address the obvious: That frontrunner Trump has been charged in four criminal indictments, and that in a civil case in New York, a judge just found that businesses Trump and his eldest sons ran routinely committed fraud.

Trump skipped this debate, as he did the first.

Takeaways from two hours of chaos at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum Air Force One Pavilion hosted by FOX Business:

· Shame on the moderators for not bringing up Trump’s significant legal woes. I could see why they might not have wanted to do so in the beginning of the debate, so they could see what their rivals might do. But after a while, please.

· As in the first debate, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Trump’s United Nations ambassador, had the strongest night, fueled by her grit, wit and preparation. She was the winner, again. Haley still faces a challenge to get out of single digits in polls.

· Vivek Ramaswamy’s constant talking over everyone is a tactic, I understand that. Everyone was fighting for air time. It worked for him in the first debate. He may have overdone it this time.

· Haley had a great takedown moment. She hit Ramaswamy for joining TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media platform suspected of using its technology to spy on U.S. users. After Ramaswamy went on in his superior way to defend himself, Haley said dryly, ”Every time I hear you I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.”

· It’s not that Trump wasn’t mentioned. He was. Christie and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hit Trump for not being onstage with them. The more articulate Christie did the taunts better. “Donald, I know you’re watching, you can’t help yourself,” Christie said. “You’re not here tonight, not because of polls, and not because of your indictments. You’re not here tonight because you’re afraid of being on the stage and defending your record. You’re ducking these things, and let me tell you what’s going to happen. You keep doing that, and no one up here is going to call you Donald Trump anymore. We’re going to call you Donald Duck.”

· DeSantis, who has been losing ground to Trump, did nothing for himself to turn it around. He is lurching more to the radical right. DeSantis said, again, that he will send U.S. troops into Mexico to battle drug cartels. Invading Mexico? Is that the best answer to dealing with the migrant and drug problem?

· Poor Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president. He just could not figure out a way to get heard, and when he did, he didn’t have much to say. He awkwardly sidestepped a question about whether Obamacare was here to stay, a reference to the Trump/Pence failure to fulfill their promise to end what has turned out to be a popular and enduring health insurance program, a main legacy of former President Barack Obama.

· Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., dropped his nice guy thing and was more aggressive, but just being more energetic wasn’t enough.

· And by the way, it seemed at times that no matter the question, the answer was fentanyl.

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