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Republican debate live: seven candidates – but not Trump – to face off in California

Key events

Ronald Reagan is a Republican icon, and his presidential library will play host to tonight’s debate. But as the Guardian’s David Smith reports, it is unlikely the late former president would think much of the direction his party has recently taken:

Tourists posed for photos beside the presidential seal, peered inside the cockpit, studied the nuclear football and gazed at a desk where a “Ronald Reagan” jacket slung over the chair, page of handwritten notes and jelly bean jar made it appear as if the 40th US president could saunter back at any moment.

Air Force One is the star attraction at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. But on Wednesday it is competing for attention with a curving Starship Enterprise-style stage set featuring seven lecterns and microphones for the second Republican presidential primary debate.

The Reagan library describes this as “the Super Bowl” of Republican debates, against the dramatic backdrop of the Boeing 707 that flew seven presidents and close to the granite gravesite where Reagan was buried in 2004, looking across a majestic valley towards the Pacific Ocean.

“As a new field of Republicans make their case to be the next President, the legacy of Ronald Reagan looms larger than ever,” the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, which sustains the library, said in an email statement that will be put to the test at 9pm ET. For there are some who argue that Reagan would no longer recognise a Republican party that now belongs to Donald Trump.

How to watch the debate

Tonight’s debate at the Ronald Regan presidential library in Simi Valley, California begins at 9pm eastern time, and will be broadcast on Fox News and Fox Business Network. For Spanish-language viewers, it will be carried on Univision, according to the Associated Press.

It’s expected to last two hours, and will be moderated by Fox Business Network’s Stuart Varney, Fox News’s Dana Perino and Univision’s Ilia Calderón.

And will, of course, be covering it live on this blog.

Where’s Trump?

Léonie Chao-Fong

Donald Trump is skipping the second debate to visit Detroit auto workers instead.

He will attempt to position himself as an ally of working-class voters in Michigan – a Democratic-leaning swing state he carried in his upset 2016 election victory – by promising to raise wages and protect jobs if returned to the White House.

The former president is the clear frontrunner for the GOP’s presidential nomination and will at 8pm eastern time, just before the debate starts, speak before a crowd of current and former United Auto Workers (UAW) members at Drake Enterprises, a nonunion manufacturer in Clinton Township, about a half-hour outside Detroit.

A Trump campaign radio ad released last week and airing in Detroit and Toledo, Ohio, praised autoworkers, and said the former president has “always had their back”.

This is the second debate in a row Trump has skipped. Rather than attend the inaugural GOP debate in Milwaukee, Trump gave an interview to conservative commentator Tucker Carlson, which was posted on X, the social network owned by billionaire Elon Musk and formerly known as Twitter.

Who qualified for the second Republican debate?

Seven candidates have qualified for the second Republican primary debate but former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson did not make the cut this time.

Taking part this time are Florida governor Ron DeSantis, South Carolina senator Tim Scott, former vice-president Mike Pence, former UN envoy Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Doug Burgum.

Candidates needed at least 3% support in two national polls or 3% in one national poll and two polls from Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina – all early-voting states.

The candidates also need at least 50,000 unique donors (200 of those need to come from 20 states or territories) and they had to sign a pledge promising to support the eventual nominee.

Republicans — but not Trump — to duke it out in second debate of presidential primary

Good evening, US politics blog readers, and thanks for joining us as the Guardian’s Maanvi Singh and I cover the second debate of Republican presidential candidates. This evening’s face-off takes place at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California, but if you know only one thing about this debate, know this: Donald Trump, who polls show has an overwhelming lead in the race for the GOP nomination, will not attend. The debate stage will instead feature seven candidates, including Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, his ex-vice-president Mike Pence and South Carolina’s senator Tim Scott. We’ll tell you more about who else is there, and what Trump is doing instead, a little later.

That said, there’s still plenty of news to be made at this debate. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:

  • The federal government is on the cusp of shutting down for the 11th time since 1980 due to a protracted dispute over spending among Republicans, mostly in the House. Will the candidates take sides in the spending battle? And if so, will they support speaker Kevin McCarthy and his attempts to placate all wings of his party, or the insurgent Republicans who disputes over spending, border security and parliamentary tactics may soon grind much of the government to a halt?

  • Trump has warned his fellow Republicans against stringent abortion bans that keep the procedure off limits in cases of rape, incest or health complications. Will the candidates join his call, or back hardline restrictions – perhaps even a federal ban?

  • Joe Biden is the target of an impeachment inquiry launched by House Republicans, even though some of their own lawmakers don’t think there’s enough of a case against the president. Do the candidates agree, or do they think House Republicans should press on, even though Democrats’ control of the Senate means there’s practically no chance Biden will be removed from office?

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