US Republican presidential candidates have taken aim at Donald Trump for failing to show up at their latest televised debate.
The event, hosted by Fox Business in California, saw Mr Trump’s rivals stepping up their attacks on him in an effort to put a stop to the former president’s commanding lead in the polls ahead of the election next year.
Instead, Mr Trump went to the key state of Michigan to deliver a speech amid the backdrop of a car manufacturer’s strike.
Candidates in California were asked about education, economic policy and the border with Mexico in a wide-ranging debate – but attention was often turned to Mr Trump’s absence on the panel.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has tried to style himself as an alternative to Mr Trump – despite sharing similar ideologies – said: “He 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 we have now.”
Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, added Mr Trump “hides behind the walls of his golf clubs and won’t show up here to answer questions like all the rest of us are up here to answer”.
Then addressing the former president directly, Mr Christie said: “Donald, I know you’re watching. You can’t help yourself.
“You’re ducking these things. And let me tell you what’s going to happen. You keep doing that, no one here’s going to call you Donald Trump anymore – we’re going to call you Donald Duck.”
Even Vivek Ramaswamy, the businessman who has generally praised Mr Trump, said it will “take a different generation” to continue the “America first” agenda.
Mr Trump, seemingly unfazed about his ever-growing legal troubles, delivered a prime-time speech in Detroit, which ran into the beginning of the televised event.
“We’re competing with the job candidates,” he said as he poked fun at his rivals for not drawing big crowds to their speeches.
Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, took aim at Mr Ramaswamy, criticising his use of TikTok, which some Republicans say is a tool used by China to spy on the US.
“Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say,” she said.
Mike Pence, the former vice-president, also directed an attack at Mr Ramaswamy, as did Mr DeSantis, who both commented on his lack of voting in his state’s elections.
The group also suggested Mr Biden is being lobbied by a teaching union, with Mr Christie saying at one point: “When you have the president of the United States sleeping with a member of the teachers union, there is no chance that you can take the stranglehold away from the teachers union”.
Jill Biden, the president’s wife, is a teacher and a long-time union member.
The night ended when the candidates refused to be drawn in to a game of Survivor, after being asked who they would vote to eliminate from the field.