“I want to look in that camera now and tell you, Donald, I know you’re watching, you can’t help yourself,” Mr Christie said.
“You’re not here tonight, not because of polls and not because of your indictments. You’re not here tonight because you’re afraid of being on this stage and defending your record. You’re ducking these things.”
“Let me tell you what’s going to happen,” he continued. “You keep doing that, and no one up here is going to call you Donald Trump anymore. We’re gonna call you Donald Duck.”
The comments, met with a mix of cheers and boos in the debate hall, were instantly mocked online.
Former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly opined on X that the “‘Donald Duck’ line was lame.”
Daily Beast reporter Justin Baragon, meanwhile, said the insult shows “we’ve reached new levels of cringe now.”
Despite the jokes at his expense, Mr Christie appeared to double down on the nickname, with his campaign tweeting a Donald Duck gif on X on Wednesday.
Multiple people compared Chris Christie’s awkward face after making his nickname jab to a popular meme featuring comedian Kevin James shrugging.
“Christie literally did the meme with the Donald Duck line,” Greg Price of the State Freedom Caucaus Network wrote on X.
Flint-based water activist Mari Copeny, meanwhile, said the nickname wasn’t an insult to Donald Trump – but to Donald Duck.
“The real Donald Duck doesn’t deserve this type of slander,” she wrote online.
Mr Christie’s swipe at Donald Trump wasn’t the only insult against the former president during the debate.
Following the first Republican debate where the candidates largely avoided calling out the former president, this time around several finally turned the tables on him.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis finally called out Mr Trump for avoiding facing his rival candidates – as the former president chose to make a campaign stop at a non-union auto plant in Michigan instead of attending the debate in Simi Valley, California.
“Where’s Joe Biden?” Mr DeSantis said during the debate.
“He’s completely missing in action from leadership. You know who else is missing in action? Donald Trump is missing in action. He should be on this stage tonight.”
He continued: “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 (@GovChristie) September 28, 2023
Mr Christie also continued to take aim at Mr Trump elsewhere during the debate.
“Donald 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,” he said.
“He put $7trn on the debt, he should be in this room to answer those questions for the people you talk about who are suffering.”
Other candidates meanwhile chose to stick to shouting and interrupting each other — and the moderators — while trading insults over various issues, including their alleged ties to or softness on China.
Mr Ramaswamy, who has gained support in recent polls after the last debate, was the target for numerous attacks from Ms Haley, who slammed the political neophyte for his recent decision to open an account on TikTok, the video-sharing app which most of the GOP field has avoided because of its Chinese parent company.
Asked to explain the move, he replied: “I have a radical idea for the Republican Party: We need to win elections. And part of how we win elections is reaching the next generation where they are — we’re only going to ever get to declaring independence from China … if we win.”
Christie literally did the meme with the Donald Duck line 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/ZMxthhNENp
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) September 28, 2023
Ms Haley, who lambasted the newcomer for his Russia-friendly Ukraine policy at the Milwaukee debate, pounced.
“This is infuriating because TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media apps that we could have,” she said. “Honestly every time I hear you I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.”
The candidates also managed to draw groans with references to marital relations on the part of President Joe Biden and former vice president Mike Pence, both of whom are married to teachers.
At his rival event on Wednesday night, Mr Trump didn’t shy away from hurling his own nicknames at his political candidates.
In a rambling speech to auto workers, he described President Joe Biden as being “like a wretched old vulture trying to finish off his prey”.
Throughout his political career, the former president has been notorious for slinging childish monikers at his political rivals.
During the 2016 presidential election, he unleashed attacks on his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, calling her “Crooked Hillary”.
He also taunted Senator Elizabeth Warren with a racial slur “Pocahontas” over an accusation that she falsely claimed Native American heritage.
After taking office, the offensive nicknames didn’t stop and, as he went head-to-head with President Joe Biden in the 2020 race, he adopted the moniker of “Sleepy Joe” for the eventual winner.
It’s a nickname that has stuck with Mr Trump’s supporters and the right-wing media, though Mr Biden has tried to rebrand himself with a mocking name: “Dark Brandon.”
During the November 2022 midterms, Mr Trump’s attention turned to Mr DeSantis who he eyes as his main rival for the Republican vote in 2024.
While the two men held competing rallies in Florida in the final days before the midterm elections, Mr Trump debuted his prized “Ron DeSanctimonious” nickname. Several reports emerged that he was also mulling some other options including “Meatball Ron”.
Other options being considered, according to Bloomberg, included “Ron DisHonest,” “Ron DeEstablishment” and “Tiny D”.
He also came under fire for repeated racist attacks on former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao – who is married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Now, it remains to be seen whether Mr Trump’s own new nickname sticks.