The third Republican presidential debate got off to an unusual start. Vivek Ramaswamy flipped the script by challenging the NBC debate hosts. When asked why he should be picked as the Republican candidate over Donald Trump, Ramaswamy criticized the Republican National Committee (RNC) and its leader, Ronna McDaniel, for what he views as the party’s recent failures.
Ramaswamy turned his attention to the debate moderators, suggesting that personalities like Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan, or Elon Musk would do a better job. He argued that they would attract more viewers and ask more relevant questions to Republican voters, possibly drawing more support to the party. He questioned NBC’s Kristen Welker directly about her network’s coverage of the Trump-Russia investigation, implying bias and challenging her to address the issue.
The audience went wild. There’s been some dissatisfaction among conservatives who feel the RNC hasn’t done enough to promote conservative media during such debates. There has been discussion about Welker’s family donating money to Democratic politicians, such as Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic National Committee. Although Welker’s family made these donations and not her, some people think it looks odd, especially since she moderated a presidential debate in 2020.
Meanwhile, Nikki Haley, the former Governor of South Carolina, exchanged sharp criticism with several opponents, particularly businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.
During another heated moment, Haley and DeSantis went head-to-head over South Carolina’s economic interactions with China under Haley’s governorship, a topic brought to the forefront by recent ABC reporting. DeSantis pledged to follow in Trump’s footsteps to reinforce the southern border, drawing upon the narrative of a forceful approach towards the drug cartels influencing human and drug trafficking.
One of the more tense instances of the night revolved around the debate over TikTok, the social media platform entwined with China’s government, which Ramaswamy had utilized for campaigning. This sparked a pointed question from conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt and an emotionally charged exchange where Ramaswamy brought up Haley’s family, which she sharply rebuked.
Despite President Trump’s notable absence on the debate stage, he was a focal point of discussion. DeSantis criticized Trump’s fiscal legacy, while Haley zeroed in on what she perceived as his wavering stance on foreign policy. Chris Christie delivered a forthright critique, questioning the former President’s capability to lead given his legal entanglements.
Ramaswamy and Senator Tim Scott opted not to directly criticize Trump. Scott highlighted his potential to draw independent voters, while Ramaswamy attacked perceived media bias.
Abortion also emerged as a significant issue, particularly after a recent referendum in Ohio. Haley called for a focus on late-term abortion restrictions, while Scott endorsed a 15-week ban. Ramaswamy bemoaned the pro-life movement’s defeat in his home state, and DeSantis stressed the need for strategic readiness on the issue. Christie expressed a holistic view of being pro-life, extending concern to individuals outside the womb as well.
When it came to entitlements, the debate touched on the fiscal sustainability of programs like Social Security. Ramaswamy advocated for cutting government bureaucracy to fund Social Security, while Haley and Christie proposed reforms targeting future generations and the wealthy, respectively. Scott emphasized the importance of economic growth to preserve the program.