On Wednesday, Nov. 8, contenders for the Republican presidential nomination converged on the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, for the third Republican primary debate. In an expansive debate, candidates argued over issues ranging from opioids to TikTok. Three specific issues emerged as central to the conversation, garnering the most speaking time. Each candidate asserted their vision for foreign policy, the economy and abortion.
“Finish the job once and for all with these butchers, Hamas” – Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis declared his strong support for Israel, saying, “I’m sick of hearing other people blame Israel just for defending itself. We will stand with Israel in word and indeed in public and in private.” Gov. DeSantis also struck a hard line on Israel-Hamas discourse on college campuses, stating that “it’s the antisemitism that’s spiraling out of control” and that “if you are here on a student visa as a foreign national, you’re making common cause with Hamas, I’m canceling your visa and I’m sending you home, no questions asked.”
Gov. DeSantis invoked his service in Iraq when asserting what he says is a commitment to protecting American troops, stating, “you harm a hair on the head of an American service member, and you are going to have hell to pay.” He asserted that, as president, he would not send American troops to Ukraine. However, he contended that a military response was necessary at the U.S.-Mexico border, stating, “I am going to send troops to our southern border. If you look at the threats that we face, terrorists have come in through our southern border.”
“There would be no Hamas without Iran; there would be no Hezbollah without Iran.” – Former South Carolina Governor and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, asserted a strong commitment to supporting Israel, saying the United States must “support Israel with whatever they need, whenever they need it.” Haley asserted that Iran, backed by Russia and China, is a main actor in the conflict, stating, “there wouldn’t be the Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq that are trying to hit our military men and women if it hadn’t been for Iran. And who is funding Iran right now? China is buying oil from Iran, Russia is getting drones and missiles from Iran, and there is an unholy alliance.” Haley believes the United States should take stronger action to combat Iran, contending that “Iran responds to strength; you punch them one, and you punch them hard and they will back off.”
On Ukraine, Haley emphasized the importance of supporting what she characterized as “a freedom-loving, pro-American country that is fighting for its survival and its democracy.” However, she detailed that there should be limits on the type of aid Ukraine receives, stating, “No, I don’t think we should give them cash. I think we should give them the equipment and the ammunition to win.” Haley argued that supporting Israel and Ukraine is important to combat what she describes as an “unholy alliance” between Russia and China.
“To frame this as some kind of battle between good versus evil, don’t buy it.” – Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy asserted Israel has “the right to defend itself” but that the United States has other obligations besides defending Israel. He stated, “I would tell Israeli Prime Minister [Netanyahu] to smoke those terrorists on his southern border and then I’ll tell him as President of the United States, I’ll be smoking the terrorists on our southern border. That’s his responsibility; this is our responsibility.”
Ramaswamy also stated he is “absolutely unpersuaded” that Ukraine should receive more aid. Ramaswamy justified this by claiming that “Ukraine is not a paragon of democracy” and calling the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, a “Nazi.”
“I would say to Prime Minister Netanyahu [it] is pretty simple, America is here no matter what it is you need at any time to preserve the state of Israel. Remember that Hamas’ main goal is to get rid of Israel. Is to get Israel absolutely off the map.” – Chris Christie declared his support for Israel, stating,“it is absolutely your [Netanyahu’s] obligation to protect the territorial integrity of Israel,” to ensure that “Hamas can never do this again,” and finally to “continue to isolate Iran [and] work with the reasonable nations in the Middle East.”
On Ukraine, Chris Christie stated that “the last time that we turned our back on a shooting war in Europe, it bought us just a couple of years and then 500,000 Americans were killed in Europe to defeat Hitler” and that it is the United State’s responsibility as the “leaders of the free world” to be involved in the situation. He stated, “In 1992, this country made a promise to Ukraine. We said if you return nuclear missiles that were part of the old Soviet Union to Russia and they invade you, we will protect you,” and asserted the U.S. should “stand by” that promise.
“I would tell Prime Minister Netanyahu, not only do you have the responsibility and the right to wipe Hamas off of the map, we will support you, we will be there with you, we’ll stand shoulder to shoulder.” – South Carolina Senator Tim Scott asserted the United States would stand with Israel in the Israel-Hamas War. If he were to become president, he stated that he would revoke federal funding for any college campus that “allows for antisemitism and hate” and “allow[s] students to encourage terrorism, mass murder and genocide.” He reaffirmed this stance by stating, “all the students on visas who are encouraging Jewish genocide, I would deport you from those campuses.”
On Ukraine, Senator Scott stated, “I certainly have been very supportive of Ukraine. I believe that ultimately we should make sure that the President of the United States states what is America’s national vital interest in Ukraine,” which is to degrade the Russian military. Stating his stance on whether or not he would sign off on more military funding for Ukraine, Scott maintains that “We’ve been very effective using our resources and our weaponry and the incredibly high price of Ukrainian blood to achieve that objective” and that the “bottom line is we have to first have the level of accountability that allows the American people to understand where the resources have gone.”
“I’m going to take all the executive orders, the regulations, everything involving Bidenomics, I’m going to rip it up, and I’m going to throw it in the trash can.” – Governor DeSantis painted a picture of an economy in which “many of you are working hard, and you’re falling further and further behind.” To address this, DeSantis promoted deregulation as a means of economic growth, stating deregulation “is going to give the economy breathing room.” He also criticized the policy of the Federal Reserve, promising to “reign in” the Fed and stating it “should focus on stable prices; they are not an economic central planner for the American people.”
“We have to stop the spending binge that’s happening by Republicans and Democrats in Congress.” – Nikki Haley said that in the American economy today, “the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.” Haley proposed several measures to “start beefing up the middle class,” such as eliminating the federal gas tax, cutting taxes on the “middle class” and by decreasing federal spending to “pre-COVID levels.”
“Increase the supply of everything. It’s the law of supplies and demand.” – Vivek Ramaswamy touted his business experience as a CEO while laying out his proposals to bring down costs and grow the economy. Ramaswamy wants to increase the production of fossil fuels and nuclear energy to “bring down the cost of energy” and also deregulate land use restrictions in order to “increase the supply of housing.” He asserted a connection between patriotism and economic prosperity, stating, “The reason my generation has lost our sense of national pride in part is because people in my generation feel like the American Dream isn’t available to them … People will be more proud of a country if we’re all making more money in that country. This is how we revive national pride and our identity.”
“Energy is the key to bringing this down. It’s what every American family needs when they turn on their lights, fill up their car and go to the grocery store” – Chris Christie asserted the importance of energy policy in addressing high costs, stating, “energy is the key to this because it drives every one of those other prices. Now food gets to your grocery store, it gets trucked, and those truckers have to pay for fuel [with] the higher fuel prices.” Christie wants to “unleash every bit of American energy” and also sees addressing the conflict in Israel and Palestine as important for bringing stability to the energy market.
“By having an energy economy, we start allowing this nation to once again return as the city on the hill.” – Tim Scott declared that he would emphasize the production of energy in the United States. Scott also emphasized what he believes is a need to make the American economy more self-sufficient, stating, “we can reduce the price of energy, we can reduce the price of food and the price of electricity if we focus on my build here, don’t borrow from China plan.”
“I stand for a culture of life and I understand that it’s important that everyone gets a shot.” – Ron DeSantis said that a “culture of life” should be promoted in the United States but emphasized that abortion laws will vary from state to state. He also views state referenda as important avenues in which to promote anti-abortion values, stating, “the pro-life cause, they have been caught flat-footed on these referenda and they have been losing the referenda”
“We don’t need to divide America over this issue anymore.” – Nikki Haley used her personal story to back her pro-life stance, saying, “I am unapologetically pro-life, not because the Republican Party tells me to be, but because my husband Michael was adopted and I had trouble having both of my children. So I’m surrounded by blessings.” However, Haley also emphasized a belief in abortion being a “personal issue,” stating, “I don’t judge anyone for being pro-choice and I don’t want them to judge me for being pro-life.” Legislatively, Haley took a pragmatic approach to abortion restrictions, stating there were not enough votes on Capitol Hill for such restrictions. “No Republican president can ban abortions any more than a Democrat president can ban these state laws.”
“Men deserve more responsibility. So we can tell women, “We’re all in this together.” – Ramaswamy asserted that there is a need for Republicans to put better alternatives to pro-abortion amendments and measures across the country. He specifically referenced the Ohio constitutional amendment, which effectively codified a right to abortion in the state, criticizing how the “Republicans did not have an alternative amendment or vision on the table.” Ramaswamy emphasized measures such as contraception, adoption and especially stressed “sexual responsibility for men,” saying, “[w]e live in an era of reliable genetic paternity tests that are a hundred percent reliable. So we can say men deserve more responsibility.”
“This is an issue that should be decided in each state” – Chris Christie argued that “the federal government should have absolutely nothing to do with” abortion and that it should be up to each state to “make the call for themselves.” Christie also asserted his belief that “pro-life” values should be used to care for people who need help in other ways, stating, “pro-life for the whole life means that the life of a 16-year-old drug addict on the floor of the county lockup is precious and we should get treatment for her to restore her life.”
“Well, I’m a hundred percent pro-life.” – Senator Scott was the only candidate on the stage who called for a specific federal abortion restriction, calling for a “15-week national limit,” Scott called on other candidates on the stage to join him in calling for this limit. Scott also stressed what he viewed as the importance of being “pro-life after the child is born.” For Scott, this means supporting adoption and funding “crisis pregnancy centers.”