‘Afraid to answer’: Christie challenges DeSantis on whether Trump is fit to be president

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With his campaign attacking GOP front-runner Donald Trump over a series of gaffes, Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to directly answer during the fourth Republican presidential primary debate Wednesday night whether he thought the former president was fit to be president again, leading to a tense exchange with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

“You seem to be saying Donald Trump is no longer mentally fit to be president,” moderator Elizabeth Vargas said to DeSantis, noting his campaign’s efforts to highlight Trump’s mistakes and age. “Is that what you think?”

“We need to have someone who is younger,” DeSantis, 45, said while pointing out that Trump, 77, would be in his 80s if elected for another term.

After DeSantis avoided saying if he thought Trump was fit to be president, Christie had had enough.

“Why doesn’t he answer the question? The question was very direct, is he fit to be president, or isn’t he? The rest of the speech is interesting but completely unresponsive,” Christie said.

The remarks immediately sparked a 30-second shouting match between Christie and DeSantis. After the tense exchange, DeSantis continued to talk about how he would be a more effective leader than Trump because of his age.

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“We should not nominate somebody who is almost 80 years old ...” DeSantis said before being interrupted again by Christie.

“He is afraid to answer,” Christie said.

“No, I am not!” DeSantis protested.

Christie argued that DeSantis along with Republican presidential candidates, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy are “afraid to offend” Trump and his base.

“You have to be willing to offend with the truth,” Christie said.

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The tense back and forth — which came as Trump once again skipped a debate of Republican presidential hopefuls — was the second time Christie badgered DeSantis for not giving a straight answer during the debate. In the first hour of the debate, Christie criticized the Florida governor for not directly answering a question abut whether he would send American troops into Gaza to free American being held hostage by Hamas.

Christie said he would “absolutely” send American troops to rescue hostages if there was a plan that showed him they could get them out safely.

DeSantis did not offer a direct answer on the matter.

“When there are hostages, commander in chief, you have to do whatever you can to get ‘em done,” he said.