Republican Rivals Turn on Trump in Heated Debate

Ramaswamy, despite suggesting in past comments the US should cut off aid to Israel, said that “Israel has the right and the responsibility to defend itself”…reports Asian Lite News

Five main Republican rivals tore into ex-President Donald Trump as they blamed him for the losses in the off-year 2023 elections during the third presidential debate here in order to narrow his lead over them in the 2024 White House race, a climactic difference from the previous debates with 70 days to go for the Iowa caucuses to meet.

Republican candidates came out “swinging against Trump, taking stronger jabs at the former President than the previous two debates” in a push to cut into his massive polling lead, media reports said.

Once the strongest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was on home turf in Florida as he focused on the poor showing in Tuesday’s elections where the GOP failed to win the Governor’s race in Kentucky, lost control of the Virginia legislature and got walloped on abortion rights in Ohio.

Voters got abortion rights enshrined in the state legislature’s constitution, as also voting for marijuana as a recreational drug. 

“Trump said Republicans were going to get tired of winning,” DeSantis mocked Trump, saying, “Well, as we saw last night, I’m sick of Republicans losing.”

In the first two debates at Milwaukee and San Fransisco, Republican challengers to Trump had struggled to articulate their case against him, but this time they came out swinging before they head into the Iowa caucus in two-and-a-half-months’ time.

Nikki Haley, who was Trump’s Ambassador to the UN, said he was the “right President” when he was elected in 2016, but said GOP voters “can’t live in the past”.

“I don’t think he’s the right President now,” she said, singling out billions in debt accumulated under Trump’s administration and “getting weak in the knees” with his waffling support for Ukraine in its war with Russia, USA TODAY said in a report summarising the essence of the debate.

All five Republicans — DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Tim Scot and Chris Christie (the only one who had been anti-Trump throughout) raised their voices to defend Israel in its war against Hamas in the aftermath of the October 7 attack, and also unanimously condemned rising anti-Semitism on college campuses.

“I would be telling Bibi (Israel PM Benjamin Netanyhu) — finish the job once and for all with these butchers Hamas,” DeSantis said, adding: “I’m sick of hearing other people blame Israel just for defending itself. We will stand with Israel in word and in deed, in public and in private.”

Senator Tim Scott said the US should consider striking Iran in response to Iranian-backed militias deemed responsible for more than 40 drone and rocket attacks on US forces in Syria and Iraq.

“You actually have to cut off the head of the snake, and the head of the snake is Iran,” he said.

Ramaswamy, despite suggesting in past comments the US should cut off aid to Israel, said that “Israel has the right and the responsibility to defend itself”.

Ramaswamy said he would tell Netanyahu that he should “smoke those terrorists on his southern border, and as president, I’d smoke those terrorists on our southern border”.

Ramaswamy, the 38-year-old biotech billionaire engineer, came out swinging, exposing his brashness and immaturity as the newcomer novice to US politics.

He called out Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, blaming her for the 2023 off-year election losses and other past outcomes, media reports said.

“And I think that we have to have accountability in our party. For that matter, Ronna, if you want to come on stage tonight, you want to look the GOP voters in the eye and tell them you resign, I will yield my time to you,” he said.

“That’s the choice we face,” Ramaswamy said, adding, “Do you want a leader from a different generation who is going to put this country first, or do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels?”

“You’re just scum,” Haley retorted.

Haley, who is climbing in the polls, responded to the fashion quip, saying she wears “5-inch heels” before adding: “I wear heels, they’re not for a fashion statement, and they’re for ammunition.”

The two have been at each other’s throats in previous debates, and things escalated when the question turned to if each supports calls to ban the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok.

The third debate got to discuss the economy an hour after it started, which was mainly consumed for attacking Trump.

Scott talked about gas prices and touted how his focus as president would be leading the country to use its natural resources before turning to foreign nations.

Former New Jersey Governor Christie said energy reform is the “key to bringing this down… we need to do that first and foremost”.

DeSantis pledged to target any regulations or executive orders related to Bidenomics, a slogan President Joe Biden uses for his economic agenda.

“When they go grocery shopping, what they now do is figure out what they have to take out of the cart once it’s ringing up because it rings up so much faster and so much higher at the cash register that they can’t afford the full cart of groceries anymore,” DeSantis said.

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