Indian-American presidential hopefuls Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy are among the four candidates who have qualified for the fourth Republican primary Debate scheduled in Alabama on Wednesday. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, two-term former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy all met the Republican National Committee’s requirements to participate in the forum at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The small debate stage lineup represents the smallest seen in the GOP’s 2024 primary campaign this year.
The candidates have been ratcheting up the attacks on each other, with many of their allied super PACs running ads accusing rivals of softness on China and slamming them for cozying up to Chinese companies as state leaders. On Wednesday, the candidates also attacked each other over their handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict, with both DeSantis and Haley taking issue with how their rivals characterized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to “finish” Hamas.
DeSantis, who has positioned himself as the most pro-Trump candidate in the field, clashed with Haley over her support for the war in Gaza and blasted her for refusing to pass laws restricting which bathrooms transgender people can use, arguing that such decisions should be left up to local governments. She pushed back by describing DeSantis as the last gasp of a failed political establishment and criticizing him for attacking her on social issues.
Meanwhile, Christie has sought to position himself as the only candidate who can effectively go after Trump, slamming his rivals for spending so much time brawling with each other instead of going after Trump. But he hasn’t been able to make any inroads into Trump’s lead in polls, and his rivals haven’t done much to weaken the president’s grip on the nomination.
Of the four candidates who have qualified for the Debate, only Haley has shown signs of real momentum with high-profile endorsements and crowds that have been enthusiastic compared to those at other events this week. But she must convince a wider swath of donors, conservatives, and the small but vocal NeverTrump wing to join her in the race. She spent much of Wednesday’s Debate attempting to distinguish herself from her rivals while also playing up the contrast between her background as a career politician and their more ideological approach to politics. She’s still a long shot to win the primary, though she has the support of some big names and has made gains in some early states. Meanwhile, Ramaswamy has been staking out a more moderate position, and his campaign is struggling to generate excitement. He’s trying to regain ground with a more populist message and has argued that he should be considered for the vice presidential slot. He seized the opportunity to go after Haley’s daughter’s use of TikTok, a popular app that many Republicans want banned in the United States because of its parent company’s ties to the Chinese government.