The race is on for the next US president and seven candidates are battling it out to win the top seat.
December 15, 2023
Four key takeaways from the US Republican presidential debate
On November 8, five of the Republican presidential candidates gathered on a Wednesday night in Miami to discuss the matters at hand during a primary debate hosted by NBC News.
Topics tackled ranged from the Isreali-Palestinian conflict, abortion law and the ‘elephant in the room’, commonly known as Donald Trump’s New York fraud trial.
The former president, who did not attend the debate due to attending his own rally, is in court alongside his two adult sons and the Trump Organization over accusations of massively inflating the value of their properties by over $2 billion in order to secure favourable loans. Trump and his sons have denied the accusations.
Trump’s absence from the debate did not go unnoticed, with his rivals commenting on his character and ability to even hold the presidential office. Had he been there, the topic of discussion could likely have been much more heated.
Who are the presidential candidates?
Currently, there are seven candidates.
They include Donald Trump, Ron De Santis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Chris Christie, Doug Burgum, Asa Hutchinson.
Former president Trump announced he was running for candidacy in November 22 “in order to make America great and glorious again,” according to quotes in The Guardian.
De Santis, Governor of Florida, took to X in May this year to formally announce his running alongside a video, in his words to “lead the great American comeback.”
You can read more about the US Election candidates in our US presidential election 2024 explainer.
1: Israel-Hamas war perspectives
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the one issue every candidate could agree on.
It was a unanimous stance with all candidates backing the idea that the US must continue to support Israel’s military efforts to destroy Hamas, classified as a terrorist organisation in the US and UK. Not one candidate mentioned efforts to provide humanitarian aid in a war that has displaced over a million Gazans and killed thousands in both Israel and Gaza.
DeSantis said: “I’d be telling Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu]: Finish the job once and for all with these butchers,” referring to the Israeli prime minister by his nickname.
“The first thing I said to him when it happened was I said, ‘Finish them,’” said Nikki Haley. “I worked on this every day when I was at the United Nations (…) They have to … eliminate Hamas,” she continued.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy took a different approach in his line of argumentation and compared Israel’s borders to the US-Mexico border: “I would tell him to smoke those terrorists on his southern border. And then I’d tell him as president of the United States, I’ll be smoking the terrorists on our southern border.”
A comment referring to the Trump wall, which was a development of the Mexico-United States barrier that began under Trump’s administration. Then-president Trump signed Executive Order 13767 in January 2017, directing the US government to begin wall building along the US-Mexico border with existing federal funds.
2: Haley v Ramaswamy
The most palpable tension between the candidates could be seen in heated arguments between Haley and Ramaswamy. When leaving the stage they shook hands with everyone, but each other. The shared tensions have been building for months, and it is not the first time Haley and Ramaswamy have exchanged hostility.
During the last debate it came to personal blows as Ramaswamy mentioned Haley’s daughter’s presence on TikTok to which Haley responded, “keep my daughter’s name out of your voice. … you’re just scum.”
Ramaswamy continued to question Haley, but this time he decided to aim at her gender instead of her loved ones: “Do you want a leader from a different generation who’s going to put this country first? Or do you want Dick Cheney in 3-inch heels?”
Vivek Ramaswamy goes after Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis: “Do you want Dick Cheney in three inch heels? In which case we’ve got two of them.” pic.twitter.com/rLNCy2OZB9
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) November 9, 2023
But Haley was quick to respond to the comments, saying: “I wear heels, they’re not for a fashion statement, they’re for ammunition.”
3: Donald Trump
Trump stays popular among Republicans despite felony charges
Trump has so far not taken part in public debates with the other candidates, but has held his own rallies to garner support for his campaign. He is currently in court on the civil fraud trial.
But this has not impacted his Republican acclaim as he is currently leading against his rivals in the polls. Analysis of support following the debate, showed Trump remained in first place with 63% of voters open to support him.
If the prosecutors in the fraud trial succeed, Trump and his firm would be fined $250 million and barred from doing business in New York, effectively taking control of Trump Tower and the rest of his interests.
His fellow candidates did not miss the opportunity to bring up his trial in the Republican debate.
Ron DeSantis commented on Trump’s absence in the debates by saying: “He owes it to you to be on this stage and explain why he should get another chance,” the Florida governor said of Trump. “He should explain why he didn’t have Mexico pay for the border wall. He should explain why he racked up so much debt.”
Chris Christie, pointed out Trump’s legal troubles saying: “Anybody who is going to be spending the next year and a half of their life focusing on keeping themselves out of jail and courtrooms cannot lead this party or this country.”
At the same time the debate was taking place, 15 miles away in Hialeah, Trump addressed his rally of supporters and focused his time on criticising Biden. According to the Colorado Newsline, he said that Florida is “Trump County” and urged his supporters to assist him in winning the Florida primary “for the third straight time.”
4: Poll results
However, the post-debate polls did not change.
A majority of the voters, 34% of likely Republican voters who watched the debate, agreed that Nikki Haley has done the best job on Wednesday’s debate. The second favourite of the public was Ron DeSantis coming second with 23%.
Vivek Ramaswamy, on the other hand, faced quite a negative comeback after his performance being labelled as the “the worst” by viewers.