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Fox News
Fox News
30 Sep 2023

The 2024 presidential election will take place 401 days from now, and Republican candidates who are working to win their party's nomination have outlined what they believe to be the key issue in determining who will serve as America's next commander in chief.

Prior to the second Republican presidential primary debate Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation president David Trulio spoke with each GOP presidential candidate in sit-down interviews that covered a variety of topics.

Each of the candidates was asked what key message they wanted voters to hear from them. Many said they wanted voters to understand their approach to economic concerns, energy independence, restoring the American dream, the border crisis — but a few mentioned other issues.


Seven 2024 Republican presidential candidates took part in the second GOP presidential debate (Eric Thayer)

"We need to restore the American dream in this country. People can't get ahead. These are people that are working hard, they're trying to raise families, they're doing everything right, and they're falling further and further behind. If we can't make America work for those people, we're not going to be successful."

"What I can tell people is, it's not just rhetoric from me. I've actually done it in the state of Florida. Our economy is ranked number one in America. We've had more in-migration than any other state, we've cut taxes every year, budget surpluses – I've actually paid down almost 25% of our state's debt. That's why we're doing very well, and we're really cutting against the trends of Bidenomics. We need to take that knowhow to Washington to be able to do that for the whole country."

"The economy. Right now, you've got a lot of families hurting. We've got one in six American families that can't pay their utility bill, 60% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, 50% of American families can't afford diapers, rent is up, mortgage rates are up."

"Everybody's feeling it. That's what we need to be talking about."

"I want people to understand that America has to be a leader in the world – that it's not optional. Because to leave a vacuum in leadership in the world means that our adversaries in China will fill it. We don't want a world that's led by an authoritarian, communist dictatorship that abuses its own people, tells them how many children they can have, tells them what they can listen to and speak to."

"We want a world that has freedom, and liberty and opportunity. The only way to do that is to make sure we engage in the world. Whether that's on the battlefield in Ukraine, helping the Ukrainians to defeat the Russian authoritarian regime, or whether it's standing up for the Taiwanese to make sure that China knows that's not a step they wanna take. The rest of the world is watching what America will do and what we won't do. . . . A Christie presidency will be a presidency where America leads not just our country, but the world."

"I think the most important issue that we're facing today is a crisis on our border. The fact of the matter is President Biden is selling off the construction material to finish the border. We should finish our southern border wall so that we stop the deaths of 70,000 Americans who have died in the last 12 months because of fentanyl."

"Second, six million crossings. Reinstate Title 42 so that we reduce the number of illegal crossings, and then finally we have to stand toe-to-toe with China. It is not the strength of President Xi, it's the weakness of President Biden."


"The revival of our national identity. Answering who we are as Americans. Back to that revival of national character that Ronald Reagan spoke about four decades ago. I think that we have an opportunity to answer that question with conviction in a way that goes beyond black or white or Democrat or Republican even. I don't think that's the real divide in this country. I think the real divide in the country today is between the majority of us who love this country and the ideals that we're founded on . . . the ideals that Reagan so eloquently spoke of – free speech, prosperity, economic growth, meritocracy, the American dream that you get ahead in this country not on the color of your skin but on the content of your character."

"A fringe minority in this country rejects those ideals, that goes so far to apologize for a nation founded on those ideals. That's the real divide in this country."

"What I hope everyone takes away from our debate tonight, not just from me, but I hope from every candidate on that stage, is a conviction in who we are as Americans. And once we're able to answer that question – to my generation and younger – to revive that missing sense of national identity and pride in this country, then yes, I think our best days will still be ahead of us, and our economic challenges and our foreign policy challenges will be that much easier for us to address. I'm volunteering to be the commander in chief who leads us there."

"Ronald Reagan gave a speech in 1964 about a time for choosing, and he set the stage for a change that would come in America in a decade and a half later. I think we've come, as I said in a speech in New Hampshire recently, to a Republican time for choosing. I think the Republican Party today has to decide whether or not we're gonna chart a future based on the timeless principles Ronald Reagan governed on: Commitment to American leadership in the world, a strong defense, limited government, free market economics, and traditional values or whether we're gonna follow the siren song of populism unmoored to conservative principles. . . ."

"It's that Republican time for choosing that I think will not only determine the success of our party in 2024, but I also believe it will lay a foundation for whether or not we provide the kind of leadership that not only earns the right to lead America, but has the right policies and principles to bring America back."

"I know the American people… I believe the American people still believe in those timeless ideals, and I'm going to continue to work my heart out to make that choice clear to the people of this country every day."

"The economy is our number one issue, but you can't separate our economy from our energy policy, and you can't separate our energy policy from national security because energy security is national security. But on the economy, with interest rates at the highest rates they've been in 22 years, inflation eating into every family's budget, they're paying too much for their food, too much for gas at the pump. Farmers are paying too much for diesel."

"It's gonna take not just a course correction, but actually a 180-degree turn from the Biden administration, because Biden's policies are inflationary, their energy policies are empowering foreign dictators, they're destabilizing the world, they're raising the cost on everything for American consumers, and they're actually not helping the environment. If they were helping the environment, you'd say, well maybe we would bear the cost of destroying our economy, but it's not even doing that. I would say that's a horrible trade-off when we are outsourcing our economic future to places like China, if we're going to get all of our EV batteries from China, and China is the world's largest polluter."

"Why is the Biden administration attacking U.S. jobs, attacking U.S. energy, attacking U.S. innovation, and then pursuing an energy plan that appears to have been written by China? Why would we be doing that? It's a 180-degree change in direction . . . our national security depends on it."

Earlier this month, the Republican National Committee (RNC) confirmed that the third GOP presidential debate will be held in Miami, Florida, in early November.

The frontrunner in the Republican race for the White House, former President Donald Trump, has yet to take part in any RNC-sanctioned debate. Trump has met all fundraising and polling requirements to participate, but he has refused to sign a loyalty pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee regardless of who wins the primary.

Trump on stage at Las Vegas campaign event

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event on July 8, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

To participate in the third debate, each candidate must have a minimum of 70,000 unique donors to their campaign or exploratory committee, including 200 donors in 20 or more states. The RNC's debate committee decided on the thresholds during a conference call earlier this month, according to sources with knowledge of the panel's deliberations. 

The White House hopefuls must also reach 4% support in two national polls, or reach 4% in one national poll and 4% in two statewide polls conducted in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina — the four states that lead off the Republican presidential nominating calendar.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

Fox News' Brandon Gillespie and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Kyle Morris covers politics for Fox News. Story tips can be sent to and on Twitter: @RealKyleMorris.