Elections: Shrill Republican debate – with high-heeled shoe attack

Anyone who is the target of the most attacks during TV debates between presidential candidates tends to do well politically. But who received particularly many attacks in the new round of Republicans?

With messages of political toughness and mutual attacks, Republican presidential candidates tried to distinguish themselves in another television debate.

Five Republicans were on stage in Miami that evening, but in polls they are all far behind their internal party competitor, Donald Trump. The ex-US President also stayed away from the third debate and instead appeared in front of supporters less than 20 kilometers away in Hialeah, also in the state of Florida.

The target of verbal attacks during the TV debate was particularly often the former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, who had recently caught up with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in polls.

For DeSantis, who was considered Trump’s most promising competitor at the start of the race, things have gone steeply downhill in recent months. DeSantis openly attacked the 51-year-old Haley several times on the TV stage. Above all, the entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy targeted her in almost every speech.

The shrill attacks

The 38-year-old mockingly referred to Haley as “Dick Cheney in seven centimeter high heels” in reference to the former US Vice President. She countered that her shoes were twelve centimeters high and that she didn’t use them for fashion reasons, but rather as ammunition.

When Ramaswamy remarked on the controversial issue surrounding the video platform TikTok that Haley doesn’t have her own family under control because she demonizes TikTok while her daughter uses the service, the Republican retorted angrily: “You’re just scum.”

Ramaswamy, who is not given any real chances in the race, was once again noticeably aggressive. He used the first question to discredit the organizers of the debate, the leadership of the Republican Party and the NBC television station and to call on party leader Ronna McDaniel to resign. He later described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a “Nazi” and US President Joe Biden as a political “puppet”.

The big topics

In addition to many personal skirmishes and provocations, important topics were discussed: the wars in the Gaza Strip and Ukraine, the conflicts with China and Iran, migration, abortion and drugs. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie remained rather pale.

The Republican candidates united in their complaint that the country was going down the drain under Democratic President Joe Biden. Everyone also expressed unity with a view to supporting Israel in the war against Hamas, which rules in the Gaza Strip. However, when it came to the question of further support for Ukraine in its defense against Russia, the division in the Republican Party became apparent.

While Haley and Christie argued for further military aid to Kiev, DeSantis, Scott and Ramaswamy were skeptical. “We have to ensure that Europeans do their fair share,” said DeSantis.

The pithy announcements

All five tried to score points on many topics with messages of toughness – especially towards China, Iran or drug cartels from Mexico. Scott advocated that the US military should not only attack pro-Iranian militias in Syria, but also targets in Iran itself. Haley also called for more toughness towards Tehran. “You hit them once, hard, and then they stop.”

Haley struck a surprisingly conciliatory tone on the issue of abortion, on which the fronts in the country are usually very hardened. She said that even though she tends to oppose abortion, she respects the position of abortion advocates. It is unlikely that a general ban on abortions will be enforced at the federal level. She therefore called for compromises to be sought across party lines on individual points.

Ramaswamy, on the other hand, used personal attacks, populist positions, conspiracy theories and extreme statements to put himself in the limelight. Among other things, he advocated not only completing the wall on the southern border with Mexico, but also building a new wall on the northern border with Canada in order to prevent drug smuggling from there as well.

The way forward

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who was on stage at the previous debate, has now dropped out of the race. Anyone who wants to become the Republican presidential candidate must first win primaries in the individual states. For the Republicans, voters in Iowa will first decide on their preferred candidate in mid-January.

Trump, who is leading in polls among Republicans, will face several legal proceedings in the election year. While his party colleagues only expressed mild criticism of him on the television stage, Trump reeled off his usual program in front of supporters in Hialeah and complained that the legal proceedings against him were nothing but political persecution. He also did not appear in the previous TV debates with his party colleagues and argued that he did not need to take part because of his poll numbers.