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Washington Watch: GOP presidential debate: DeSantis says Trump’s spending ‘set the stage for the inflation that we have now’

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis went after former President Donald Trump during the second Republican presidential debate Wednesday night, blaming the 2024 GOP frontrunner for the inflation that has hammered Americans.

Trump “should be on this stage tonight. He owes it to you to defend his record, where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt that set the stage for the inflation that we have now,” DeSantis said.

That figure appears to come from a report last year from the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, that found that the legislation and executive actions signed by Trump added $7.8 trillion in 10-year budget deficits. Economists say one of the drivers of inflation has been massive stimulus spending by both the Trump and Biden administrations.

“I can tell you this as governor of Florida: We cut taxes, we ran surpluses, we’ve paid down over 25% of our state debt, and I vetoed wasteful spending when it came to my desk,” DeSantis said. “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.” 

Trump, the frontrunner in the Republican primary by a 40-point margin, skipped the debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., just as he passed on taking part in the first debate a month ago. Instead, he delivered a speech at a non-union auto-parts plant in Michigan that overlapped somewhat with the debate, a day after President Joe Biden visited striking members of the United Auto Workers union at a picket line in the battleground state, telling them to “stick with it.

Biden weighed in on the Florida governor’s criticism of Trump, saying in a post on X: “Couldn’t agree more.”

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also attacked Trump for missing the debate, addressing him directly.

“You’re not here tonight because you’re afraid of being on the stage and defending your record. You’re ducking these things,” Christie said. “You keep doing that, no one up here is going to call you Donald Trump anymore. We’re going to call you Donald Duck.”

Trump has 56.6% support in GOP primary polls, according to a RealClearPolitics moving average of surveys. He has been indicted this year in two separate election-interference cases, a hush-money case and a classified-documents case, but many Republican voters have rallied around him. DeSantis is a distant second with 14.4% support, followed by former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley at 5.8% and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy at 5.1%.

Seven GOP presidential hopefuls were taking part in the debate: DeSantis, Haley, Ramaswamy and Christie, along with former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

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