Several of the qualifying candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination took part in a spirited debate Wednesday, hoping to draw attention and a distinction about two months before the Iowa caucuses. While many eyes were trained on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), former President Donald Trump did not take part in the event.
Despite the candidates trading barbs with each other, much of the attention was on the former president. DeSantis said that Trump was “missing in action” and “should be here on this stage tonight.”
“He owes it to you to defend his record,” the governor said.
Haley called Trump the “right president at the right time” but that she did not believe that “he’s the right president now.”
Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy called Haley “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels,” which Haley disagreed with.
Ramaswamy later criticized Haley’s daughter, to which Haley requested that he leave her “daughter out of your voice.” She then called Ramaswamy “just scum.”
Haley and DeSantis traded jabs, as well, with the former South Carolina governor saying that her Florida counterpart ran an “economic development agency that as of last week said Florida is the ideal place for Chinese businesses.”
DeSantis said that he abolished the agency in question.
Haley also accused DeSantis of being a “liberal on the environment” for opposing fracking in the Florida Everglades.
“I know most Floridians agree with me,” said DeSantis.
The DeSantis campaign pointed to polling after the debate which appeared to show their candidate as the victor. A Daily Mail poll showed that 56% of voters chose the Florida governor as having a better debate performance compared to Haley. According to the overnight poll, DeSantis was chosen by 56% of respondents, while Haley received 35%.
NEW: @RonDeSantis WINS post debate survey —
"Viewers said DeSantis beat Haley in a head-to-head poll after 3rd GOP debate"
"[S]urveyed 544 viewers immediately after the Miami debate ended"
"Florida governor best placed to challenge Trump for nomination"https://t.co/mKqdjd8ykl
— Bryan Griffin (@BryanDGriffin) November 9, 2023
Furthermore, the same poll found that 53% of those surveyed believed that DeSantis would be a stronger candidate against Trump, who is leading in most national and statewide polls. Another 29% chose Haley instead.