Indian American Republican presidential aspirant Nikki Haley emerged winner yet again in the party’s third primary debate in Miami on Wednesday marked by clashes with fellow Indian American Vivek Ramaswamy.
But the shadow of front runner Donald Trump loomed large over the slimmed down field of five as the former President again skipped the debate to hold his own rally in nearby Hialeah, remarking at one point that his rivals were “not watchable.”
There, he was endorsed by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R), who first came to national prominence as Trump’s White House press secretary.
While the five hopefuls — Haley, Ramaswamy, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Tim Scott (SC), and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy —engaged in some substantive discussion, they did little to make the case why they should be the nominee and not Trump.
The debate’s most memorable moment came when Haley snubbed Ramaswamy telling him “You’re just scum” after the entrepreneur made the mistake of going after her on the specious basis that Haley’s daughter uses TikTok even as the candidate inveighs against its dangers.
Using her foreign policy chops as the US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, Haley staked out expansive, interventionist positions that cut against her former Boss’s “America First” foreign policy vision.
READ: Nikki Haley beats Biden by four points in new poll (October 12, 2023)
She backed Ukraine to the hilt. She said she would support military strikes against Iran. And she said the United States needed to support Israel with “whatever they need and whenever they need it.”
Haley praised Trump’s presidency, then criticized him, saying that he had gone “weak in the knees” on Ukraine and that his time had passed. Ramaswamy defended Trump in passing.
Ramaswamy made acidic attacks on Haley, mocking her foreign policy and calling her “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels.”
Former NH Sen. Judd Gregg endorses Haley presidential bid (October 25, 2023)
“Do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels? Because you’ve got two of them on stage tonight,” he said in reference to Haley and DeSantis, while invoking the Republican former vice president who was known for his neoconservative views.
“They’re five-inch heels, and I don’t wear them unless I can run in them,” Haley later shot back. “They are not a fashion statement, they are ammunition.”
When Ramaswamy later invoked her daughter’s use of TikTok, she demanded, “Leave my daughter out of your voice,” and then added in almost disbelief about the exchange, “You’re just scum.”
Haley described herself as opposed to abortion, but said that passing national restrictions would be virtually impossible, arguing that it’s crucial to be “honest” with the public.
“As much as I’m pro-life, I don’t judge anyone for being pro-choice and I don’t want them to judge me for being pro-life,” she said suggesting a “consensus” on the divisive matter was necessary. “We don’t need to divide America over this issue any more,” Haley concluded.
Ramaswamy’s other big bad moment came when he called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy a “Nazi.”
In his closing remarks, Ramaswamy suggested that the Democrats may eventually choose former First Lady Michelle Obama — who has expressed no interest in seeking elected office — as their eventual nominee over President Biden.
While the debaters complained about Trump’s absence, they could do nothing about the fact that, by staying away, the frontrunner again deprived the debate of any significance.
“Nothing changed,” wrote conservative podcaster Megyn Kelly in a social media post. Trump won.”