Hot Topics and Sharp Exchanges in the Third GOP Debate 

By Jason Collins

Everything You Need to Know About the Third Debate

It’s that time of the year again when five Republican hopefuls spend their evening on stage bashing one another and trying to convince viewers why they are Donald Trump’s biggest opposition. Like the previous GOP debates, last night did not disappoint when it came to hot topics and sharp exchanges, especially newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy’s breakthrough performance. 

Here are the summary and highlights from last night’s debate. 

The Five Attendees 

Last night’s debate only had five Republican candidates gracing the stage, as the pretenders have been weeded out. That finally focused the candidates and allowed them to interact more with each other leading to a lot more fighting than in the previous debate. 

The (hopeful)stars of the stage were: 

  • Vivek Ramaswamy 
  • Cris Christie 
  • Nikki Hayley 
  • Ron DeSantis 
  • Tim Scott 

Notably, Donald Trump was missing again from the debate, which is hardly surprising considering that he hasn’t attended any this year. His logic is that he’s so far ahead of Republican rivals that there’s no point in him being there. Instead, he was at a rally in Ron DeSantis’ backyard of South Florida speaking to Floridians and Cuban Americans looking to build upon the swelling Latino support that swung his way in 2020. 

Ramaswamy on The Charge 

One of the biggest highlights of the evening was Ramaswamy’s performance. Last night, Ramaswamy brought his punching gloves with him because he was on the charge and clashed heads with Nikki Hayley, NBC debate moderaters, and anyone who got in his way. No one was safe from Ramaswamy’s attacks last night, even Canada. 

Ramaswamy spoke a bit on the ongoing drug problem, specifically fentanyl. He even suggested building a wall on the border of Canada. Sound familiar? The words are ones spoken by Donald Trump, someone Ramaswamy is often seen defending. Ramaswamy explained,

There was enough fentanyl that was captured just on the northern border last year to kill three million Americans. So we got to just skate to where the puck is going. Not just where the puck is.

Another victim of Ramaswamy’s sharp tongue was Ukraine’s president, President Vladimir Zelenskyy, whom he called a “comedian in cargo pants.” Ramaswamy has been previously vocal about his opposition to the U.S. government sending billions of dollars in support to Ukraine. This drew a rebuke from Hayley, who said, “I’m telling you, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and President Xi [Jinping of China] are salivating at the thought that someone like that could become president.” Referring to what would happen if Ramaswamy was president. 

Lastly, Ramaswamy saw himself locked in a heated argument over the use of the Chinse social media app TikTok. An app that Christie blames Trump for not banning soon enough, claiming the app is “polluting the minds of American young people.” 

On stage, Ramaswamy talked about the hypocrisy of Hayley, now talking about banning the app when her daughter uses it. He said, “In the last debate, she made fun of me for actually joining TikTok while her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time. So you might want to take care of your own family first.” 

Hayley had responded while pointing at him, “Leave my daughter out of your voice. You’re just scum.” 

Support For Israel 

Much of the talk at last night’s debate was focused on foreign policy, which should be form US Ambassador Hayley’s strength. Candidates also had the opportunity to share their thoughts about the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, with all of them pledging support but to various degrees. 

Hayley slammed Biden for suggesting Israel halt their defense for humanitarian reasons, saying, “The last thing we need to do is to tell Israel what to do,” she said. “The only thing we should be doing is supporting them and eliminating Hamas.” 

DeSantis also added his thoughts on the matter, saying, “I will be telling Bibi, ‘Finish the job once and for all with these butchers Hamas, they’re terrorists.” Addressing the ongoing social tensions in the U.S. because of the conflict, DeSantis stated,

If you are here on a student visa as a foreign national and you’re making common cause with Hamas, I’m canceling your visa, and I’m sending you home. No questions asked.

Ramaswamy, who is in favor of Israel’s right to defend herself, but feels that it’s not the U.S.’s responsibility to send support, targeted Hayley’s response. Ramaswamy said,

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?

Referring both to the rumors going around that DeSantis wears lifts in his boots and Hayley’s in heels NeoCon rhetoric. 

Hayley vs DeSantis 

DeSantis as usual was not the loudest in the room, which to be fair was pretty difficult when you have Hayley and Ramaswamy clashing heads. However, DeSantis did have his moment when he got into a heated debate with Hayley over China. 

DeSantis criticized Hayley for using a Chinese fiberglass company during her tenure as Governor, saying,

She welcomed them into South Carolina, gave them land near a military base, wrote the Chinese ambassador a love letter, saying what a great friend they were…In Florida, I banned China from buying land in the state. We’ve recognized the threat, and we’ve acted swiftly and decisively.

Ramaswamy agreed on both points. 

However, that was the total of DeSantis’s big moments which begs the question, is DeSantis doing enough? Especially with Hayley right on his heels.

A Subdued Christie 

What came as a surprise in last night’s debate was Christie’s quiet demeanor. In fact, he was so quiet that you would be forgiven for forgetting he was even on the stage. More than ever it seems his role as an establishment attack dog on the MAGA agenda no longer has a place in these debates. Hayley has taken over his lane, and the usual aggressive, bold, and loud man is nowhere to be seen. With barely any questions sent his way, Christie seemed more of a prop at this point. 

When Christie did talk about his thoughts on the 15-week federal abortion ban, he was countered by Hayley who took over the discussion on abortion. Christie is only polling at 4% nationally trailing Hayley who is consolidating both the voter and donor base that is Never Trump. If Christie ever had a moment, he missed it. 

Scott on The Fringe

Another candidate who seems to be on the fringes with Christie is Senator Tim Scott. As a candidate, he’s likable enough and managed to get the most speaking time out of everyone at the debate, yet his policies seem all over the place and that isn’t a winning quality. While Scott had a strong stance on the 15-week federal abortion ban and urged his fellow candidates to support his position, Scott’s answers to other questions were vague at best. 

For example, when asked to commit to sending funding to Ukraine, he declined but then said he does actually support Ukraine, which left many scratching their heads at his answer. However, aside from his talk about the abortion ban, Scott’s performance paled in comparison to the likes of Ramaswamy and Hayley. 

A Debate on Abortion 

Along with foreign policy, abortion rights were also a hot topic in the debate. This came after the devastating loss for Republicans in several states where Democratic abortion rights groups have made their voices heard in both red and blue states. Ramaswamy expressed his disappointment at the loss,

I am upset about what happened last night. We’ve become a party of losers at the end of the day.

Candidates discussed whether they would support a federal 15-week abortion ban. 

Ramaswamy wasn’t as vocal as before and said he felt that men needed to have more sexual responsibility when it came to the topic of abortion. DeSantis, too, shied away from discussing the topic while Hayley took a different stance, saying, “Stop the Judgement. We don’t need to divide America over this issue anymore.” 

Hayley believes there should be more support for women in the form of easy-to-access contraception. While Hayley is pro-abortion, she has made it clear she doesn’t judge people for being pro-choice, which is quite a difference compared to the other republican candidates like Scott, who support the 15-week ban. Hayley’s rather moderate view on abortion was certainly notable. 

So, who actually won the debate? Was it Ramaswamy with his sharp tongue and swinging punches? Or perhaps was it Hayley with her strong take on foreign policy and abortion rights? As the narrative coalesces in the light of the GOP afterglow, Hayley has emerged victorious, or at least the media wants to portray her that way. RINOs and Democrats are pushing Hayley as a worthy rival of Trump. Whether or not the actual voting electorate of the Republican Party agrees is another matter. Either way, it means that if DeSantis wants to keep hold of his second place in the GOP primary he will need to do something, and fast.