In the third Republican debate in Miami, five presidential candidates graced the stage, though Donald Trump, the leading contender, chose a nearby rally over the event. The contenders, significantly trailing Trump, face dwindling opportunities to sway voters with the imminent Iowa caucus in two months. The debate underscored Trump’s continued dominance and highlighted the urgency for contenders to differentiate themselves as the Iowa caucus approaches.

Donald Trump’s pervasive influence became evident as the first question centered on why voters should choose the candidates over the former president. Reflecting on Trump’s evolution since 2016, Governor Ron DeSantis emphasized unfulfilled promises. On the other hand, Nikki Haley acknowledged Trump’s past relevance but contended he was no longer the ideal candidate. Drawing attention to Trump’s legal challenges, Chris Christie argued against his nomination, foreseeing potential legal entanglements. Interestingly, Tim Scott and Vivek Ramaswamy opted not to reference Trump, with Ramaswamy vehemently criticizing “the establishment” and “the corrupt media” instead. 

The Miami debate witnessed intense exchanges as Nikki Haley became a focal point of contention. Amid Trump’s dominance, rivals sought to consolidate the non-Trump vote, with Ms. Haley, the lone woman in the race, experiencing a surge in polls. Vivek Ramaswamy repeatedly targeted Haley as “the sharpest of the war hawks.” The clash escalated when Ramaswamy mentioned Haley’s daughter’s TikTok use, leading to a vehement response from her defending her family. Haley asserted that Russia and China eagerly anticipated the prospect of Ramaswamy becoming president. Additionally, confrontations unfolded between Haley and DeSantis, challenging each other’s records on issues like China and energy independence. 

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the nationwide right to abortion, the GOP remains fractured on the issue. Republicans advocating for increased restrictions have encountered resistance, as illustrated by Ohio voters decisively supporting the addition of abortion rights to the state’s constitution. The dichotomy within the party was evident in the debate, with Nikki Haley emphasizing the need for consensus between anti-abortion convictions and those opposing stricter limits. 

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In contrast, Senator Tim Scott proposed a national 15-week limit, a suggestion met with widespread disregard from fellow candidates. Haley urged Republicans to cease judgment on non-anti-abortion views, a sentiment supported by Chris Christie, who advocated for state-level autonomy in determining abortion limits. Ron DeSantis echoed this stance, acknowledging the diverse perspectives across states on this contentious issue. The candidates’ nuanced responses highlight the delicate balance they seek on a topic that has historically posed challenges for Republican candidates in elections.

The candidates displayed a unanimous stance on supporting Israel during the ongoing conflict with Hamas. All five contenders voiced their alignment with Israel in a show of solidarity. DeSantis and Haley called for decisive action, urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “finish” Hamas. Christie and Scott attributed the crisis to President Biden’s policy of appeasement. 

Ramaswamy, emphasizing Israel’s “right and responsibility,” likened it to his commitment to combat drug traffickers on the US-Mexico border. However, he did not shy away from criticizing Haley, characterizing her foreign policy as “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels.” The remark sparked a lively response, with Haley clarifying that her heels were five inches for “ammunition” rather than fashion. The exchange illustrated the candidates’ unity on Israel and revealed underlying tensions as the Republican race continues.