Mind the gap: candidates try to close in on Trump in third republican debate

WhatsApp Image 2023 11 09 at 18.51.08

During the most recent Republican debate that took place yesterday in the US, five presidential contenders engaged in disputes over various issues, such as the Gaza conflict, immigration, and their challenging efforts to secure the nomination against former President Donald Trump.

The clash took place in Miami, Florida, involving only five candidates – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former United Nations envoy Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and Senator Tim Scott. Former Vice President Mike Pence withdrew from the primaries last week and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum was disqualified for this debate. Despite Trump’s continued dominance in the race, marked by legal challenges, he chose, once again, not to participate.

The debate’s initial focus on the Gaza conflict and its implications persisted, with candidates consistently expressing support for Israel throughout discussions, even on unrelated topics. Haley and Ramaswamy, intensified their rivalry by exchanging criticism throughout the evening. Scott, who previously had a more subdued presence, took a more assertive stance, claiming a larger share of speaking time. DeSantis, perceived as a serious contender challenging Trump’s hold on the nomination, highlighted his conservative record in Florida while criticizing President Joe Biden’s policies.

Despite Biden’s strong backing for Israel, including advocating for over $14 billion in additional aid, Republican candidates attempted to surpass the Democratic president in supporting the US ally. DeSantis and Haley voiced a staunch stance, indicating they would advise Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take decisive action against their adversaries. However, Ramaswamy cautioned against US military intervention in the conflict, differentiating himself from the others by highlighting past failures and the human cost of war.

They also displayed an aggresive approach toward Iran, especially in light of US troops facing attacks from Tehran-aligned groups in Iraq and Syria amid the Gaza conflict. Scott, Haley, and DeSantis all advocated for forceful action against Iran, emphasizing a need to address the root of the conflict.

The debate showcased divisions among the candidates regarding aid to Ukraine, with Ramaswamy opposing further assistance, citing concerns about Ukraine’s democratic standing and its president. This position was swiftly rejected by Haley, who linked support for Ukraine to broader geopolitical implications involving Russia and Iran.

The candidates also shared a common focus on countering China, recognizing it as a significant adversary. Christie labelled China as “the enemy” and proposed strengthening the US’s naval capabilities, particularly nuclear submarines, to deter potential Chinese aggression. Haley blamed China for the opioid crisis in the US, vowing to sever formal trade relations until the issue is resolved. DeSantis warned of the global ramifications if China were to become the leading superpower.

With Trump maintaining a significant lead in polls, the other candidates face a considerable challenge ahead of the primaries. Some candidates directly criticized Trump for his absence and legal issues, marking a departure from previous encounters. DeSantis, in particular, called out Trump’s absence and unfulfilled promises, while Christie highlighted concerns about a potential leader preoccupied with legal battles.

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