Wednesday night features another GOP presidential primary debate—with just under six weeks until the Iowa Caucuses.
The debate, which will be at the University of Alabama, will feature Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Like previous debates, GOP frontrunner former President Donald Trump will not attend. Instead, he will host a fundraiser in Hallandale Beach, Florida.
The debate will air from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern Time on NewsNation, a fledging network started in 2021 that will be hosting its first presidential debate. It will also be available online on Rumble, which has broadcasted all the primary debates so far.
Closing Statements, Debate ConcludesIn closing remarks, Mr. Christie said President Trump as the nominee would mean four more years of President Biden.
“I will earn your trust,” he said. “I want to earn your vote.”
Mr. Ramaswamy reiterated his stance that climate change is “a hoax.”
Ms. Haley lamented the “chaos” at home and abroad and that, in a shot at President Trump, you can’t “defeat Democrat chaos with Republican chaos.”
“No drama. No vendettas. No whining,” she said.
Mr. DeSantis talked about taking on opponents and being a leader.
Candidates Name Which President They’re Inspired ByMs. Johnson asked the candidates which former president they are inspired by.
Mr. Christie said he would be like Ronald Reagan, a book whom he wrote about coming out in early 2024, as president.
Mr. Reagan “was a slave to the truth,” Mr. Christie said. “Ronald Reagan stood up for the truth, whether popular or unpopular at the moment.”
Ms. Haley said she is inspired by George Washington to maintain the experiment of U.S. government and Abraham Lincoln given his ability to lead during the most divisive time in U.S. history.
“You look at Abraham Lincoln, and you look at the challenges and you look at the division that happened in our country and the ability to lead in spite of the loud noises and say, ‘What will bring out the best in people to get us to go forward’ is always something that’s important. I think we need that now more than ever.”
Mr. DeSantis said his inspiration is Calvin Coolidge given his understanding of the Constitution.
“People don’t talk about him much, but he’s one of the few presidents that got almost everything right,” Mr. DeSantis said. “He understood the proper role of federal government under the constitution. We need to restore the U.S. Constitution as the centerpiece of our national life and that requires a president who understands the original understanding of the Constitution, who has a good sense of the Bill of Rights, and knows how we’ve gone off track with this massive fourth branch of government.”
Candidates Blast Government-Vaccine Maker RelationshipMr. Ramaswamy and Mr. DeSantis blasted the nexus between Washington and pharmacy makers that produced COVID-19 vaccines.
Mr. Ramaswamy said that while he appreciates capitalism, the cronyism between Big Pharma and the U.S. government needs to end.
Mr. DeSantis lamented the COVID vaccines for infants six months and under. He reiterated his pledge for there to be “a reckoning” over the U.S. government response to the pandemic and to “clean house” at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
‘We Have a Sick-Care System in this Country’: Ramaswamy on HealthcareMr. Ramaswamy addressed healthcare in the U.S.
“We don’t have a health care system in this country,” he said. “We have a sick care system.”
“We’ll pay for anything like feeding tubes, doctors to be pill pushers—but for the procedures that can actually make these patients better, we have a broken healthcare system that doesn’t pay for it,” Mr. Ramaswamy said.
The solution, he said, was to lift some of the restrictions on health insurance to allow for a “competitive marketplace.”
“We need to start having diverse insurance options in a competitive marketplace that cover actual health, preventive medicine, diet, exercise, lifestyle, and otherwise. That’s how we deliver that. End the antitrust exemptions for health insurance companies. That’s where the competitive marketplace begins.”
Ramaswamy: Arm the Taiwanese, Cut Economic Dependence on ChinaMr. Ramaswamy followed up Mr. DeSantis’s comments by saying that he would support a “broader deterrence strategy” that includes arming the Taiwanese.
He stressed that the U.S. needs to be specific about its strategy toward China but has been “scared” to take any of the necessary steps due to its economic dependence on its adversary.
“If that were a Russian spy balloon, we’d have shot it down in an instant,” he said, referencing the Chinese spy balloon that the military shot down earlier this year, but only after it had made its way across the continental U.S.
He added that the same would be the case if the Chinese spy base in Cuba were Russian.
DeSantis: Deterring China’s Ambitions No. 1 National Security TaskMr. DeSantis exuded confidence that, as president, he would be able to prevent China from invading Taiwan. And should that plan fail, he said he would follow “longstanding American policy” to defend an ally.
And defending Taiwan, he added, is important to thwarting China’s ability to “export authoritarianism” throughout the world.
Haley Wants to Change Definition of AntisemitismMs. Haley said it was “disgusting” that the presidents of Harvard, MIT and University of Pennsylvania were waffling during a House committee hearing when asked whether calling for the genocide of Jews is harassment or bullying.
This comes as there has been a spike in antisemitism in the United States, especially on college and university campuses, amid the latest conflict between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas.
Ms. Haley said that in office she would institute a definition of antisemitism that includes anti-Zionism, which is the belief the Jewish state has no right to exist. Were colleges and universities to refuse to combat antisemitism, a Haley administration, she said, would have their tax status taken away.
She also called for the end of foreign money, especially that which is Chinese, in universities.
She also said that TikTok should be banned as it is a spreader of antisemitic content.
DeSantis Addresses Election IntegrityMr. DeSantis gave several proposals for how to revive Americans’ trust in their electoral process at a time when many worry that the system has been rigged in favor of actors supported by the establishment.
“Americans are concerned about the legitimacy of elections,” Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said. “What should states do now to increase election integrity and voter confidence for the 2004 election?”
Mr. DeSantis responded, “You should do for elections what we did in Florida. Twenty years ago, elections in Florida were a joke.”
“I came in and I removed a couple supervisors from South Florida,” he said. “We require voter ID, universal. No Zuckerbucks. No mass mail balloting and no ballot harvesting. We even have an agency to prosecute people for violating election laws.
Ramaswamy Booed Over Haley ‘Corruption’ JabMr. Ramaswamy took aim at Ms. Haley once again for what he described as her “corruption problem.”
“After the third debate, when I criticized Ronna McDaniel after five failed years of leadership of this party and criticized Nikki for her corrupt foreign dealings as a military contractor, she said that I have a woman problem,” he said. “Nikki, I don’t have a woman problem—you have a corruption problem.”
The audience did not react well to that barb, loudly booing the entrepreneur.
Candidates Debate Trans IssueMr. Christie said that whether children should get gender-changing surgery should be left to their parents.
Mr. DeSantis said the government should get involved to stop what he said is the “mutilation” of children.
Mr. Ramaswamy, who called transgenderism a “mental health disorder,” said that the federal government should ban “genital mutilation or chemical castration” of those underage.
Ramaswamy Says Deep State is ‘Real Enemy’Mr. Ramaswamy called the Jan. 6 Capitol breach “an inside job.”
During an exchange about President Donald Trump’s fitness to serve a second term, Mr. Ramaswamy said, “I’ll tell you my issue with all three of my other colleagues on this debate stage: they have been licking Donald Trump’s boots for years for money and endorsements.”
“I think the real enemy is not Donald Trump. It’s not even Joe Biden,” Mr. Ramaswamy said. “It is the deep state that at least Donald Trump attempted to take on. And if you want somebody who’s going to speak truth to power, then vote for somebody who’s gonna speak the truth to you.
Christie: Candidates ‘Afraid’ of Offending TrumpMr. Christie blasted Mr. DeSantis for sidestepping the question of whether President Trump is fit to be in the White House.
“He’s afraid to answer,” he said, adding that he is “afraid” of offending the former president.
DeSantis: Trump Didn’t ‘Drain the Swamp’While skirting providing a direct answer to the question of whether President Trump is mentally fit for office, Mr. DeSantis instead criticized the former president for failing to “drain the swamp.”
“He didn’t even fire Dr. Fauci,” he noted. “He didn’t fire Christopher Wray. He didn’t clean up the swamp. He said he was going to drain it. He did not drain it.”
The governor also charged that President Trump did not keep his promises when it came to immigration.
Christie Booed for Trump RemarksMr. Christie was booed after making remarks that were deeply critical of President Donald Trump.
Mr. Christie has organized his presidential bid around opposition to the former president, far and away the frontrunner for the 2024 nomination.
Mr. Christie was asked about a remark President Trump made yesterday. Asked whether he would be a dictator, President Trump quipped in response, “Only on day one,” saying he would close the border and start drilling.
Mr. Christie argued that this throwaway remark should raise alarm bells.
“This is an angry bitter man who now wants to be back as president because he wants to exact retribution on anybody who has disagreed with him,” Mr. Christie said. “Anyone who’s tried to hold him to account for his own conduct. And every one of these policies that he’s talking about, are about pursuing a plan of retribution.”
He added, “Let me make it clear: his conduct is unacceptable. He’s unfit and be careful what you’re gonna get if you ever got another Donald Trump term.”
DeSantis: Europe ‘Committing Suicide With the Mass Migration’In response to Ms. Haley calling for screening those coming to the U.S. from Iran, China and other dangerous and authoritarian countries, Mr. DeSantis acknowledged that terrorism should be a factor when it comes to immigration policy – but should not be the only one.
DeSantis, Haley Blame Both Parties for InflationMr. DeSantis, like Ms. Haley, blamed both Democrats and Republicans for reckless spending and therefore inflation, which has been a major issue under President Biden.
“It’s driven your prices higher and it’s driven your interest rates to the point where you can’t afford,” said Mr. DeSantis, who pledged to reduce interest rates, inflation, and spending.
Ramaswamy: ‘Stand With a Spine’ on ChinaMr. Ramaswamy called for holding China accountable for the COVID-19 pandemic and the fentanyl crisis, saying that the U.S. should “stand with a spine” to counter the Chinese Communist Party.
“I think it is going to take a U.S. president that’s going to have a very different conversation with Xi Jinping than what Joe Biden just had in California,” he said, referring to the Chinese Communist leader.
The exchange began with Ms. Haley discussing President Donald Trump’s track record on China, and taking a strong tone on how her administration would handle the top U.S. adversary.
She criticized President Trump, who she said had failed to do enough to counter China, insinuating that she would take a stronger approach to dealing with the communist behemoth.
Mr. DeSantis shot back, saying, “This is rich because when she was governor of South Carolina, she was the number one ranked governor of bringing the CCP into her state.”
He cited a 2014 letter by Ms. Haley to the Chinese ambassador in which she wrote, “We consider your country a friend and are grateful for your contributions on the economic front.
“There is still much to be done, and I look forward to working with you going forward,” she added later.
“She’s been very weak on China,” Mr. DeSantis said. “Now here’s the problem. The rhetoric is different but the one on her donors, these Wall Street liberal donors, they make money in China. They are not going to let her be tough on China and she will cave to the donors. She will not stand up for you.”
Ms. Haley rebutted that Mr. DeSantis was “mad because those Wall Street donors used to support him and now they support me.”
Ms. Haley said that Mr. DeSantis did a rally for a Chinese company, a claim that Mr. DeSantis refuted, saying that “liberal media groups” had fact checked that claim and found it untrue.
Haley Knocks Trump on ChinaWhile touching on her preferred approach to the border crisis, Ms. Haley took a swipe at the GOP frontrunner over his policies on China.
While she acknowledged that President Trump was “good on trade” with China, she said he had failed to hold the communist nation accountable in other areas.
“He allowed fentanyl to continue to come over,” she charged. “He continued to allow them to take—he would give them technology that would build up their military and hurt us. He allowed the Chinese infiltration, for them to buy up farmland, to put money in our universities, and to continue to do things that were harmful for America. We now have a spy basically Cuba and police stations. And Trump didn’t do anything about it.”
Mr. DeSantis, however, interjected to attack the former South Carolina governor on her own record with China.
DeSantis: I’ll Get Mexico to Pay for the WallMr. DeSantis said he would fulfil President Trump’s promise to build a wall at the southern border and force Mexico to pay for it.
Christie vs. Ramaswamy ShowdownMr. Ramaswamy and Mr. Christie came to verbal blows over the businessman’s characterization of Ms. Haley.
“Foreign policy experience is not the same as foreign policy wisdom,” Mr. Ramaswamy told Ms. Haley, contending that she couldn’t “identify the provinces on a map [of Ukraine] that she wanted to send our troops to fight for.”
Mr. Christie shot back, telling Mr. Ramaswamy that he is the “most obnoxious blowhard in America” and to “shut up.”
“We’re now 25 minutes into this debate,” Mr. Christie said. “And he has assaulted Nikki Haley’s basic intelligence, not her positions, her basic intelligence.”
Mr. Ramaswamy brought up “Bridgegate,” where the Christie administration closed a bridge in what was apparently political retribution. Numerous investigations, including a Democrat one, cleared Mr. Christie of wrongdoing.
Haley Clarifies Position on IranWhen asked about her former comments about wanting to “punch” Iran once “and punch them hard,” Ms. Haley denied that she supports bombing the country. She did, however, stress that they would only respond to strength, and that the best way to show that strength would be to attack them in other ways.
DeSantis Slams Biden on IsraelThe Florida governor—who served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee as a member of Congress—blasted the president for having “kneecap” Israel amid its conflict with Hamas.
Haley Comes Under Early AttackWhen confronted over his attacks on his fellow competitors in previous debates, Mr. Ramaswamy defended his comments as those of someone who is “going to be a fighter when it counts.”
He then homed in on Ms. Haley, hammering her for serving on the board of Boeing after leaving her role as ambassador to the UN.
Ms. Haley, he claimed, was “bankrupt” when she left the U.N., but after her work with Boeing and many speaking opportunities, her financial situation turned around. “Now you’re a multimillionaire. That math does not add up. It adds up to the fact that you are corrupt.”
Ms. Haley denied having been bankrupt and noted that she had a relationship with the aeronautics company when she was governor of the Palmetto State, and that she stepped off its board after 10 months when they sought government COVID relief.
Ms. Haley also came under attack from both Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Ramaswamy for comments she made earlier calling on social media companies to require identity verification before allowing users access to social media platforms.
Ms. Haley argued that such measures would undermine bots representing Russia, China, and Hamas, but critics warned that it would mean the end of privacy on social media.
“We have anonymous speech,” Mr. DeSantis said, noting that The Federalist Papers themselves were written with no name attached.
‘We’ll Take It,’ Haley Says of Corporate DonorsMs. Kelly opened her question to Ms. Haley with a hard-hitting question about her dramatic increase in personal net worth after leaving the office of United Nations ambassador in 2018.
“Ambassador Haley, you left government service in 2018 with just $100,000 in the bank,” Ms. Kelly said. “Five years later, you’re reportedly worth 8 million thanks to lucrative corporate speeches and board memberships like you had with Boeing.
Ms. Kelly added, “Weeks ago you met with Wall Street heavyweights including leaders from JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and BlackRock. Several other billionaire investors are reportedly ready to endorse you or recently have … Aren’t you too tight with the banks and the billionaires win over the GOP working class base, which mostly wants to break the system, not elect someone beholden to it?”
“Look, we will take support from anybody we can take support from, but I have been a conservative fighter all my life,” Ms. Haley said, touting her record as a Tea Party candidate when she was elected governor of South Carolina, her opposition to corporate bailouts, and successfully passing tort reform.
In Opening Question, DeSantis Asked About ElectabilityMs, Kelly started the debate off by noting that President Trump is dominating in the polls. The first question went to Mr. DeSantis, whom Ms. Kelly asked whether it is his time to drop out as it may not be his time for now.
5 Things to WatchExpect a debate with differing views on foreign policy ranging from the Israel-Hamas war to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The participants on stage will likely go after Ms. Haley, who has gained momentum in recent months coming off the previous three debates.
Additionally, Mr. DeSantis will look to boost his stalling campaign, which has lost ground to Ms. Haley in numerous polls including in New Hampshire and South Carolina. This is despite him receiving major endorsements from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Bob Vander Plaats, who has the Midas touch of Iowa politics, whose endorsees have gone on to win the Iowa Caucus despite not ending up with the GOP nod.
Moreover, the candidates will need to make the case why they should not only face President Joe Biden but be the GOP alternative to President Trump.
Will the Debate Move the Needle?Whether another Trump-less debate will make a difference is to be determined. However, experts told The Epoch Times to not hold your breath.
Northeastern University emeritus journalism professor Alan Schroeder said that the debate “could move the needle, but probably not enough to make a huge difference in terms of the nominee.”
“I doubt the debate in Tuscaloosa changes much of the direction of Haley or DeSantis for Iowa in terms of public opinion or support,” said David Schultz, a professor at Hamline University in Minnesota.