A relief: After the first GOP primary debate stumbled into platitudes, and the second debate derailed hopelessly in a cacophony of echoing microphones, something unexpected happened in Miami on Wednesday night. The candidates spoke calmly. Related to the content. to focus.
And it looks good on her. In the gleaming hall of NBC News, in front of a digitally waving flag, the five candidates radiate something like political gravitas during the third and final debate in the run-up to the primaries.
The stadium has been destroyed, which helps. Mike Pence, former Vice President, has now withdrawn. Asa Hutchinson and Doug Burgum, unidentified outsiders, are not eligible. Only five candidates remain: Governor Ron DeSantis (45), former diplomat Nikki Haley (51), Senator Tim Scott (58), Trump opponent Chris Christie (61), and flamboyant businessman Vivek Ramaswamy (38).
They discuss social services, abortion, immigration, retirement age, China, Ukraine, and the war in the Middle East. Topical topics relevant at the moment. When candidates submit their answers, moderators Lester Holt and Christine Wilkin call on them to stick to the system.
However, one question remains like a thundercloud hanging over the discussion: Would any of this matter, without Donald Trump?
Nothing to gain
The former president appeared again in his absence on Wednesday. At the same time, he held a political rally in Hialeah, less than twenty minutes away. There is nothing Trump can win in any debate. He receives more votes in opinion polls than all the other candidates combined. Without the most likely candidate to oppose, the other candidates will only lose.
The strongest argument they previously presented against Trump was his unpopularity with the broad American public. The former president would be too weak a candidate to compete against Joe Biden, to whom he has already lost once. poll for New York times Research agency Siena takes this argument out of their hands: Trump wins with flying colors over Biden.
What remains: attacking Trump on his policies, personality, or ideas. But the candidates still hardly dare to do so. They fear this will alienate their indispensable supporters forever.
“Donald Trump is a different man than he was in 2016,” DeSantis tries. “He was the right president then, but he’s not the right president now,” Haley begins cautiously. It doesn’t go much further than that. The lawsuits against Trump remain unknown as of Wednesday. All languages were silent about his testimony this week in New York.
Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis easily dominate the third debate. Together they are vying for second place behind Trump. DeSantis in particular is benefiting from the new peace on stage.
The Florida governor has long been touted as a rival to Trump, but his lackluster performance in previous debates has not helped. He’s been sinking in the polls for months. He is overtaken by Hailey, who has been on a roll lately. Now that DeSantis no longer has to bend over to get attention, he clearly feels more comfortable.
The two agree on many topics. Their support for Israel’s bombing of Gaza appears well-established, as does the support of almost all Republicans. DeSantis: “I will oppose Bibi (Netanyahu, editor) Say: Finish the job once and for all with these butchers. Haley says something similar.
Their main sore point is miscarriage. Democrats’ success during regional elections earlier this week was driven by conservative voters’ disgust with Republicans’ anti-abortion policy. Haley took a nuanced stance on Wednesday. “No Republican president will ban abortions,” she promised. DeSantis, who promotes such federal abortion bans and enforces strict restrictions in his home state, keeps a low profile.
The war in Ukraine leads to open disagreement. Ramaswamy opposes supporting the country, which he describes as “not a model of democracy.” “Don’t fall into the trap that this is a battle between good and evil.” Haley is back. According to her, Russia and China would like nothing more than “for someone like him to become president.”
Not long after, the simplistic discussion turns into bickering, when the social media TikTok and China’s influence are discussed. “Her daughter has been on TikTok for a long time,” Ramaswamy quipped to Hailey. “Maybe you should take care of your family first!” She reacts angrily. “You’re just scum,” Hailey snaps at him. After that, they, the only two of them, refused to shake hands.
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