War in Gaza and immigration policies took center stage during Wednesday’s lively third debate among Republican presidential hopefuls in Miami. The candidates expressed their unwavering support for Israel’s military campaign against Hamas following recent attacks.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis urged Israel to “finish the job once and for all with these butchers Hamas,” calling them terrorists who would eradicate every Jew if given the opportunity. Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations, echoed his sentiments and emphasized the importance of eliminating Hamas and providing unconditional support to Israel.
The absence of frontrunner Donald Trump, who held his own rally in Miami, created a more contentious atmosphere compared to previous debates. Global conflicts, particularly in Gaza and Ukraine, spurred heated exchanges and occasional insults among the candidates.
Aside from foreign policy, the candidates also clashed over immigration, which was identified as a key factor in Tuesday’s Democratic electoral successes. DeSantis, while taking credit for chartering flights to rescue Americans stranded in Israel, exaggerated the impact by claiming that more hostages could have been taken if not for their intervention. However, critics argue that such actions should not substitute a comprehensive foreign policy approach.
The discussion turned volatile when Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy engaged in personal attacks. Ramaswamy criticized Haley’s policies for fueling war and referred to her as “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels.” In a sharp retort, Haley emphasized that her focus is not on fashion but on using her position to fight for her country.
The two candidates further clashed over the use of the TikTok social media platform, with Ramaswamy ridiculing Haley for joining it while her daughter had been using it. Their feud continued as they argued over China and their respective policies that could potentially favor America’s adversaries.
Despite their disagreements, the candidates found common ground in criticizing absent frontrunner Trump. DeSantis suggested that Trump explain why he deserves another chance, while Haley questioned his effectiveness as president, especially regarding the national debt and his stance on Ukraine and foreign issues.
Foreign policy discussions also touched on China, with former New Jersey governor Chris Christie advocating for increased deterrence to prevent an invasion of Taiwan. Christie also denounced TikTok as spyware that negatively influences American youth, stating that he would ban the platform if elected.
South Carolina senator Tim Scott diverted from the discussion on Ukraine, criticizing the Biden administration’s border policies and warning about the infiltration of terrorist cells through Mexican borders.
As the nomination race intensifies, Trump leads by a significant margin, leaving candidates like DeSantis and Haley lagging behind. DeSantis, in particular, faces challenges with declining popularity and unfavourable poll results in his home state of Florida.
The Republican candidates will have another chance to debate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on December 6 before the 2024 primaries kick off with the Iowa caucuses on January 15.