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Summarizing the 2023 Republican Debate

US news

November 15, 2023

Ainsley King


Summarizing the 2023 Republican Debate


It’s no surprise that the Republican party is scrambling for a viable candidate to go up against incumbent Joe Biden after Donald Trump’s recent legal battles. This culminated in the Republican debate on November 8, 2023, only a day after an election where the Democratic party continued holding office or won advantage. This debate was the third in the series leading up to the first primaries in January to determine the 2024 Republican Presidential pick. Citing his lead in the polls, Trump, the clear front-runner in the contest, did not attend the event, even though he had not attended the previous two.


On stage, there were plenty of memorable exchanges as participants discussed Trump, the future of abortion rights, and the Israel-Hamas conflict. The dynamic between the contenders remained unchanged, despite a smaller crowd on the stage than in the previous two debates. Sen. Tim Scott- who has since announced that he is dropping out of the race- and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie fought for airtime, as Florida governor Ron DeSantis, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy traded barbs with one another question after question. 


Here are the main points:

Foreign Policy

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of the US budget goes to Medicare instead of foreign aid. For the first time since Israel and Hamas went to war, the presidential hopefuls debated foreign policy, which led to a more incisive exchange than in previous gatherings. All of the candidates expressed strong support for Israel and denounced antisemitism, particularly on liberal college campuses. However, they hardly mentioned safeguarding Gaza's civilian population of Palestinians. But when the conversation turned to the war in Ukraine, the potential for China to attack Taiwan, and how to handle Venezuela's oil market, the GOP's well-known foreign policy division reappeared.


Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley all struck classic GOP notes when they defended military assistance to Ukraine, demanded significantly higher military spending, and connected all of the world's problems. 


In an attempt to distinguish himself, biotech businessman Vivek Ramaswamy stated that the other speakers were a member of a bipartisan foreign policy elite that made mistakes that led to several failures in international conflicts. He has long opposed help to Ukraine, labeling the Jewish president of that nation "a Nazi" in response to his denunciation of antisemitism.


Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida seemed to be in the middle. He once sidestepped a question regarding China and Ukraine by stating that he would increase border security and deport Middle Eastern immigrants. Each of the contenders spoke firmly. However, the party's disagreement over the war in Ukraine persisted throughout the evening, and it's unclear how each would behave if they were to win the presidency.


Ron DeSantis said Israel should “finish the job once and for all with these butchers Hamas,” while Chris Christie added: “America is here no matter what it is you need at any time to preserve the state of Israel.” DeSantis called Biden’s handling of the crisis “atrocious.” Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.) said “diplomacy only is a weak strategy.” 


Supporter of limited US assistance to Israel, Ramaswamy took aim at his opponents, mentioning Haley in particular, over US involvement in foreign conflicts. 


"Do you want a leader from a different generation who is going to put this country first, or do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels?" Ramaswamy questioned while answering a question about how he would advise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his nation's war against Hamas. He added, "In which case, we've got two of them on stage tonight," an apparent dig at DeSantis, whose footwear has been the subject of recent speculation.



As the clear front-runner in the primary, Trump is being challenged by every contender. However, their campaigns have mostly avoided any chance to challenge the outgoing president throughout the primary season. 


That got more difficult during the first debate, which was shown by a network unaffiliated with Fox News, which is supportive of Trump. NBC News moderators began by asking the candidates to explain why they should be the Republican nominee rather than Trump.


Trump, who had an opposing event on Wednesday and is still well-liked by the GOP base, was not exactly discredited. Haley commented on Trump: “he used to be right on Ukraine and foreign policy. Now he’s getting weak at the knees.” 


DeSantis, though, was the most assertive. The governor of Florida pointed out that Trump ought to explain why he increased the national debt, did not clear the swamp in Washington, D.C., and did not force Mexico to foot the bill for a border wall. DeSantis also brought up the disheartening election outcomes for Republicans on Tuesday night. "[Trump] said Republicans were going to get tired of winning. Well, we saw last night, I'm sick of Republicans losing."


Ramaswamy stated that something "deeper [is] going on in the Republican Party here," without criticizing Trump. He attacked the Republican establishment and Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the RNC.

"I am upset about what happened last night. We've become a party of losers, at the end of the day," Ramaswamy stated. "We got trounced last night in 2023 and I think we have to have accountability in our party."

Political Track Record

DeSantis highlighted his prior experience as governor and mentioned certain initiatives he has carried out in Florida. Haley criticized DeSantis for his record on energy while highlighting her experience in international relations and restating the need for the US backing of Israel and Ukraine. Ramaswamy assaulted them both, mentioning Haley's daughter once. She responded to that remark by calling him "scum," setting off the tense exchange of the evening.


The Republican primary voters' perception of the contest remained mostly unchanged after the first two debates, and it didn't appear probable that things would alter much in the third. According to a recent CBS News poll, Trump is leading all other contenders combined with 61% of probable GOP primary voters nationwide. Haley polled at 9%, Christie at 2%, Scott at 4%, Ramaswamy at 5%, and DeSantis at 18%. Scott has since dropped out of the race.

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