Trump Absent, Tensions High: Highlights from The Last GOP Debate Of 2023 Featuring DeSantis, Haley, Christie, Ramaswamy


The fourth Republican debate of 2023 took place on Wednesday at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The stage was filled with notable Republican figures, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswami. However, the dominant GOP front-runner, former President Donald Trump, was once again absent from the stage as he chose to participate in a fundraiser in Florida.

Speculation had been swirling before the debate about whether Trump would make an appearance. Erstwhile White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney hinted that Trump’s campaign team had contacted the debate organizers with logistical queries. However, Trump ultimately decided not to attend the debate and instead held a town hall with Fox News host Sean Hannity, where he dismissed allegations of authoritarian tendencies.

The debate was hosted by NewsNation and moderated by Elizabeth Vargas, Megyn Kelly, and Eliana Johnson. The candidates were asked a range of questions throughout the night, sparking heated exchanges and revealing differing opinions within the Republican party.

One notable moment came when DeSantis was asked about Trump consistently surpassing him in the polls, even in Florida. DeSantis expressed frustration with pundits and polls that constantly predict Trump’s victory and stated that he has been underestimated before but continues to deliver results. He also criticized other Republicans for not standing up against what he perceives as harmful actions by the left.

Ramaswamy, another candidate on the stage, targeted Haley from the outset, accusing her of caving in whenever the left comes after her. Haley defended herself, claiming that DeSantis continues to lie about her record. Ramaswamy also took a shot at Haley’s post-UN career, suggesting that she joined Boeing and gave paid speeches like Hillary Clinton. Haley responded by asserting that her rivals were jealous of her donors and wished they had the same level of support.

The debate became particularly contentious when Ramaswamy insulted Haley’s intelligence on foreign matters, claiming she couldn’t even name three Ukraine provinces where American troops might be sent. Christie, however, praised Haley’s intelligence and accomplishments, urging Ramaswamy to stop insulting her.

Ramaswamy continued to play the outsider and age card throughout the debate, arguing that the country needs a leader from the next generation who can unite the nation. Christie, however, was unimpressed with Ramaswamy’s rhetoric, calling him the “most obnoxious, blowhard” person in America.

Christie, who was initially silent in the first phase of the debate, eventually spoke up and criticized his fellow participants for not addressing the one person who was consistently winning in the polls. Referring to Trump as “Voldemort” (the villain from the Harry Potter series who shall not be named), Christie accused Trump of lacking the guts to participate in the debate.

Overall, the fourth Republican debate of 2023 showcased the differing views and strategies within the party. While some candidates targeted each other, others called for unity and focused on addressing the challenges facing the nation. With Trump absent from the stage, the debate allowed for a broader discussion of Republican ideas and perspectives.

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