More Debates, More Shouting Matches

Ryan Heshmati

December 08, 2023

The last Republican presidential debate of the year featured four candidates: Chris Christie, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley, and Ron DeSantis. The debate saw its fair share of disarray, with candidates talking over one another and Vivek Ramaswamy hammering Nikki Haley on her knowledge of Ukrainian geography. Nevertheless, the debate, not too far from the casting of the first ballots in the 2024 primaries, shed light on the candidates and the dynamics between them.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was not involved in the first several questions of the debate, strongly criticized Vivek Ramaswamy’s attacks on Nikki Haley, declaring that Ramaswamy solely “… insult[s] good people who have committed their lives to public service…” Additionally, Christie questioned why the other candidates, in his view, were not acting cognizant of Donald Trump’s hold on the largest bloc of the party going into the primary elections. 

Wealthy businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who has proven himself to be a divisive figure at previous debates, heavily pounded Nikki Haley, at one point holding a notepad up with “NIKKI = CORRUPT” largely spelled out on it. Ramaswamy, accusing her of leveraging her time in office to collect a large payday once out of office, sought to undermine Haley’s reputation as experienced on foreign policy experience, dismissing her as, “…someone with a cup of coffee stint at the UN and a $8 million dollar salary.” (Ramaswamy obtained the $8 million figure from one of moderator Megyn Kelly’s previous questions regarding Haley’s increase in net worth to a purported $8 million through work such as Boeing board membership once out of public service)

Former Ambassador Haley defended her positions and work as governor of South Carolina, remarking, “I love the attention, fellas,” in response to attacks she faced from both Vivek Ramaswamy and to a lesser extent, Ron DeSantis. As a result of the series of attacks she endured, much of her time was spent on the defensive. Finally, after many 

belligerent remarks from Vivek Ramaswamy, one resulted in Haley declining the opportunity to respond, feeling, “it’s not worth my time to respond to him,” in one exciting moment from the debate.

Governor DeSantis stuck to his playbook in rooting many responses to Florida. The governor pointed out his success in winning re-election in 2022 by a large margin, which is certainly notable for a Republican in a state that went to Former President Obama twice. Politifact looked into when DeSantis boasted about his record in office, as he asserted he delivered on “100% of the things I promised…” (In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Politifact noted two broken promises they found out of fifteen they examined). In addition, DeSantis took some heat from Former Governor Christie, who complained the Florida governor avoided a question on military troop deployment overseas.

The primaries are long from being decided, and without the former president and frontrunner on the stage, it is possible none of those participating will end up with any significant role to play in the general election. Regardless, the debate certainly engaged viewers. Now, how or if it changes the candidates’ positions in the primary remains to be seen.