A reduced field of GOP presidential candidates gathered in Miami on Wednesday for the third primary debate, featuring only five contenders: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.
Former President Trump was notably absent, holding his own rally in Hialeah, where he received an endorsement from Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Here Are the Highlights From the Night
Haley emerged as a strong debater, notably clashing with Ramaswamy over TikTok and displaying a nuanced stance on abortion. Her overall performance in the debate, especially on foreign affairs and domestic issues, solidified her position as a top contender.
While not a game-changer, DeSantis had his best debate performance, expressing robust support for Israel and holding his ground on domestic issues. His active participation marked an improvement from previous debates.
Trump’s strategic decision to avoid the debates has paid off, maintaining a substantial lead in the polls. By staying out of the debate arena, he avoids potential blows from rivals and benefits from their infighting.
NBC News and Moderators
The debate’s orderliness and substance were credited to the skillful moderation by Lester Holt and Kristen Welker of NBC News. Their approach allowed for more focused debates and minimized performative exchanges.
Christie delivered a solid performance, discussing topics from TikTok to national security. However, his chances of securing the nomination remain slim due to his anti-Trump stance, limiting the impact of his contributions to the debate.
Ramaswamy faced criticism for his confrontational approach, particularly in attacking Haley’s daughter over TikTok and labeling Ukraine President Zelensky a “Nazi.” These missteps may harm his image, especially among key voter demographics.
Scott’s debate performance was characterized as inoffensive but lacking excitement. Failing to make a significant impact, there are growing murmurs suggesting he should consider exiting the race.