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Republican presidential candidates debate in Alabama

Republican presidential candidates on the debate stage. From left, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy Associated Press/Photo by Gerald Herbert

Republican presidential candidates debate in Alabama

Four White House hopefuls hit the stage at the University of Alabama on Wednesday night, answering questions on everything from the economy to their electability. Candidates mostly agreed on the need to secure America’s southern border, stop the fentanyl crisis, and support Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy almost immediately attacked former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s political opinions and character. Ramaswamy’s attacks went so far that former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie defended Haley, saying, “This is a smart, accomplished woman and you should stop insulting her.” Haley doubled down on her controversial proposal to attach government IDs to social media accounts to cut down on fake profiles and quell cyberbullying. Christie also reiterated his refusal to ban transgender surgery for minors, saying parents, not the government, should decide whether it’s a valid option. DeSantis received blowback in the debate for not directly answering the questions asked by moderators. DeSantis ended the night by touting former U.S. President Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge as a model president. 

Where was former President Donald Trump? Hosting network NewsNation invited Trump to take the stage, but he declined. It’s the fourth debate Trump has skipped. Christie took the most shots at Trump for not showing, saying he “doesn’t have the guts to show up and stand here” and that Trump “wants to exact retribution” on detractors. Trump reportedly attended a private fundraiser in Florida during the debate.

Dig deeper: Read Leo Briceno and Carolina Lumetta’s report in The Stew on the last GOP debate.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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