(LifeSiteNews) — A winnowed crowd of five Republican presidential hopefuls squared off against one another in Miami on Wednesday for the third GOP primary debate in the 2024 presidential race.
The foreign policy-heavy debate focused primarily on how the U.S. should react to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, Europe, and the “cold war” with China through the first hour, only touching on the abortion issue in the final 10 minutes after referencing the disappointing results of Tuesday’s elections.
The two-hour, NBC-hosted debate was held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, Florida and began at 8 p.m. ET.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, pharmaceutical industry entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott were the five participants. Former U.S. president Donald Trump, who maintains a commanding lead over his GOP competitors, opted out of the debate, as he has for the past two debates, to host a rally nearby.
Ramaswamy opened by lamenting conservative losses in Tuesday’s elections, which included the passage of a radical pro-abortion amendment in Ohio, the re-election of Kentucky’s Democrat governor over his Republican competitor, and Democrat legislative victories in Virginia. He argued that Republicans have become a “party of losers” who “got trounced last night” and suggested that Republican party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel ought to step down.
The 38-year-old entrepreneur said Tucker Carlson, Elon Musk, and Joe Rogan should have moderated the debate, and personally challenged the moderators to answer for the “corrupt media establishment” and whether the “Russia collusion hoax” was real or propaganda from the Clinton campaign.
The moderators did not respond to Ramaswamy’s challenge.
I’m sick and tired of this Republican Establishment that has made us a party of losers. Where is the accountability for years of losing: 2018, 2020, 2022 and now last night? I’m calling on @GOPChairwoman to resign tonight. pic.twitter.com/8hxVqWGlwL
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) November 9, 2023
Roughly the entire first hour of the Wednesday debate focused on foreign policy, beginning with how U.S. leaders should react to the war between Israel and Hamas after the brutal October 7 attack by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians.
All five Republicans signaled strong support for Israel, but Ramaswamy pushed back against the “neocon” military ambitions that have sent American soldiers to die in unnecessary wars while costing American taxpayers dearly.
Moving on to a discussion about the war in Ukraine, Haley and Christie defended a hardline stance supporting Ukraine against Russia, while Sen. Scott urged more accountability in how taxpayer dollars are spent supporting the cause to “degrade the Russian military.” Ramaswamy called out Ukraine as no “paragon of democracy,” blasting Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky as a “comedian in cargo pants.”
DeSantis vowed that no American soldiers would be sent to fight in Ukraine under his presidency and called on Europeans to step up to help end the war. The Florida governor said Americans should focus on the true threat to the U.S., which he identified as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He called for an expansion of the U.S. Navy and a decoupling from the Chinese economy to prevent China taking America’s place as the biggest global superpower.
In the final 10 minutes of the debate, the candidates were asked to react to the Tuesday night election, in which pro-life advocates suffered a series of setbacks, and to share their own views on abortion.
“I’m upset about this,” Ramaswamy said in reaction to the Tuesday defeats for pro-life advocates. He explained he grew up in Ohio and was angered by the radical amendment passing on November 7 that “effectively codifies abortion up to the moment of birth without parental consent.”
He decried what he called a “culture of losing” on the right and blasted the lack of an alternative proposed amendment to compete with the pro-abortion ballot initiative. Ramaswamy also called for “sexual responsibility for men,” noting that abortion isn’t only a woman’s issue and that men should be held accountable to support the mothers of their children.
For his part, DeSantis told the viewers he stands “for a culture of life,” telling a story about a state Supreme Court justice he appointed who had nearly been the victim of abortion herself.
“We’re better off when everybody counts,” the Florida governor said, arguing that pro-life advocates have been “caught flat-footed” and need to “do a better job with these referenda.”
He also slammed Democrats for failing to stake out any restrictions on abortion up to birth.
I stand for a culture of life. pic.twitter.com/LXalW0tF7G
— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantis) November 9, 2023
Sen. Scott responded by speaking in favor of a 15-week federal ban. He said he’s “100% pro-life” and that states like California shouldn’t be able to abort babies until the moment of birth.
Meanwhile, Haley leaned on a stump speech expressing her personal “pro-life” views but saying she wouldn’t impose those beliefs on others. She said she’d vote for a federal abortion limit if it would pass but renewed her calls for “consensus.” Christie said the abortion issue should remain one for the states to decide.
The five Republicans on stage Wednesday represent the smallest GOP field so far in the 2024 primary.
Former vice president Mike Pence dropped out of the race last month. Trump has not taken part in any of the primary debates, citing his strong poll numbers that have helped him consistently maintain a double-digit lead over DeSantis, his chief rival.
Speaking from his counter-programmed rally nearby in Hialeah on Wednesday night, Trump suggested the GOP primary debate didn’t have any viewers and that his rally was more significant.
“I’m standing in front of tens of thousands of people right now and it’s on television,” he said. “That’s a lot harder to do than a debate.”