In the wake of Wednesday’s third GOP presidential debate, it’s clear that the five contenders on stage did little to derail Donald Trump’s march toward the Republican presidential nomination. The former president Trump, consistently leading in the polls, was conspicuously absent, opting instead for a rally in Hialeah—a strategic move targeting the Cuban-American voters in Florida.
The debate, held in Miami, saw Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sharpen his critique of Trump, while former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley sought to capitalize on her recent momentum. The stage was shared with Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
With the Iowa caucus looming and the candidates lagging behind Trump, the debate was at a critical juncture. Yet, the strict format largely prevented direct responses to attacks, limiting the potential for significant shifts in the race dynamics.
Here are 5 Takeaways From Third GOP Debate in Miami
Last night’s GOP debate in Miami unfolded with a mix of policy sparring and personal clashes, as Republican presidential hopefuls grappled with the enduring influence of Donald Trump and recent Democratic victories tied to abortion rights.
DeSantis Takes Aim at Trump’s Record
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis didn’t shy away from criticizing Trump, who chose to hold a rally rather than attend the debate. DeSantis pointed to Trump’s unfulfilled promises, such as Mexico’s payment for the border wall, and the national debt that ballooned under his administration. “We’ve got to talk about the past to make sure the future is better,” DeSantis said.
Haley and Ramaswamy Spar Over TikTok
The debate took a personal turn when Vivek Ramaswamy criticized Nikki Haley over her daughter’s use of TikTok, a platform under scrutiny for privacy concerns. Haley’s retort was sharp and direct: “Leave my daughter out of it. You’re just scum.” This exchange underscored the tension between candidates as they navigated the complex web of personal and political boundaries.
Candidates Unite on Israel, Diverge on Abortion
The candidates presented a united front on Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas, with no dissenting voices on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy. However, the topic of abortion revealed a split. Senator Tim Scott proposed a national 15-week limit, while Haley called for an end to internal judgments, stressing the need for consensus. “We don’t need America divided on this issue,” Haley stated, acknowledging the political reality in the Senate.
Christie’s Subdued Critique of Trump
Chris Christie, known for his candid critiques of Trump, was notably more subdued in his comments, focusing instead on policy over personality. He emphasized the need for a leader unencumbered by legal distractions, a veiled reference to Trump’s ongoing legal challenges.
The Polls and the Path Forward
With Trump leading in the polls and the first votes in Iowa just over two months away, the debate was a critical opportunity for candidates to make their mark. Yet, as the Chicago Sun-Times observed, none seemed to seize the moment to emerge as a clear alternative to Trump, who continues to command a significant lead among Republican voters.
The third GOP debate was a night of missed opportunities, sharp exchanges, and the looming question of how to unite the party under a banner that can reclaim victory. As the candidates left the stage, the race remained as much about who wasn’t there as who was, with Trump’s absence felt as strongly as the words of those present.
As the debate wrapped up, the battle lines within the GOP were drawn more clearly, with DeSantis and Haley vying for the role of Trump’s main challenger, and the others striving to keep their campaigns afloat in a race that is rapidly intensifying.