Sparks Fly At Fourth Republican Debate

The fiery dynamic on stage showed the struggle for the GOP’s future

What’s happening: Four candidates for the Republican presidential nomination — Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Chris Christie — faced off in what proved to be the most explosive primary debate of the 2024 election cycle.

  • Ron DeSantis: The Florida governor delivered a strong performance and drew a sharp contrast between himself and Haley, who surged to overtake him in some polls in New Hampshire and South Carolina. He repeatedly hit Haley for her recent comments on allowing parents to transition their children.

  • Nikki Haley: The former UN ambassador was the most attacked candidate on stage; she is a rising candidate and recently acquired top donors. Some Republicans want Trump to pick her as a running mate. She was caught flat-footed when Ramaswamy challenged her to name three provinces in Ukraine after she described the importance of the war.

  • Vivek Ramaswamy: The star of Wednesday’s debate landed haymakers on both Haley and Christie on various topics, from political corruption to foreign policy. Ramaswamy also hit Haley for her ties to the industrial defense complex and said she would send American children to war to buy a bigger house. He held a sign-up that called Haley corrupt.

  • Chris Christie: The former New Jersey governor, who is polling the lowest on stage, had a big moment when he dubbed Ramaswamy “the most obnoxious blowhard in America.” He also called former President Donald Trump unfit to lead and later told Ramaswamy he had no right to insult Haley.

Baked into the cake: The fourth GOP debate is unlikely to change the outcome of the primary. There are 39 days to go until the Iowa caucuses, and Trump is leading the field by as many as 45 points.

The real debate: The fiery dynamic at play Wednesday night offered a glimpse into the ongoing struggle for the GOP’s future. DeSantis and Ramaswamy, both voices of what’s being called New Right, were on offense for most of the night. Haley and Christie served as symbolic punching bags as representatives of an older, pre-Trump Republican consensus.

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