- Date: 8th September 2023
- Location: Arsht Center, Miami, Florida
- Host: NBC News
- Moderators: Hugh Hewitt, Lester Holt and Kristen Walker
- Chris Christie- Former Governor of New Jersey
- Ron DeSantis- Governor of Florida
- Nikki Haley- Former US Ambassador to the United Nations
- Tim Scott- Senator from South Carolina
- Vivek Ramaswamy- Businesswoman
Question One: Why Not Donald Trump?
- DeSantis: DeSantis talks about how it’s a new time for America and the need for new leadership. He says that the elites don’t care about Americans and the problems they face. He cares and he will do something. He’ll take the hits. Trump is very different and should be on the stage. He should explain why he did what he did. I won in Florida.
- Haley: Haley rattles off the list of what’s troubling America. She says Trump was the right man at the time, but he’s become weak on foreign policy and wants to be friends. Focuses on debt and transparency in the classroom. Wants an accountant in the White House.
- Ramaswamy: Ramaswamy goes off on the GOP. After the previous night’s losses in state elections, it seems that the Republican Party likes to lose. Attacks Ronna McDaniel, chair of the RNC, despite her being in the audience. We shouldn’t have the moderators we do- it should be hosted by Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan and Elon Musk. We should bring more people in. Attacks the moderators. Accuses media of bias
- Christie: Talks about Israel off the bat after calling them their closest friend in the Middle East. Worries about how Hamas would wipe Jews off the map. Talks about Ukraine and communist dictator Vladimir Putin who wants to ‘bring the band back together.’ He’ll tackle the big issues. Attacks Trump and says he shouldn’t be leading the party.
- Scott: Scott talks about faith. He believes a loss of faith is what is making America go downward. Whilst he thinks non-Christians can do well in America, it is best based on Judeo-Christian values. Says that the Founding Fathers wanted it that way.
Question Two: What would you tell Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to do?
- DeSantis: I’d tell him to get the job done. Talks about how he flew a plane load of Floridians stuck in Israel over and Joe Biden left them to it. There’s a difference between words and deeds.
- Haley: Finish them. I worked on this everyday at the U.N. and they must eliminate Hamas, support Israel and make sure we bring our hostages home. Iran helps Hamas, Hezbollah and Houthis. Who is funding Iran? China and Russia. Unholy alliance. The last thing we need to do is tell Israel what to do. It’s not that Israel needs America, it’s that America needs Israel.
- Ramaswamy: Israel doesn’t want any help or sympathy. Tell Israel that it’s their responsibility and my responsibility is to stop terrorists in the South. Attacks the neocons. Biden sold off foreign policy. Wars have killed people and added debt. The GOP is not that much better. Attacks Haley, calls her broke and says she made money from the military interest. Calls her and DeSantis “Dick Cheney in three inch heels.”(This gets a laugh)
- Scott: Israel has the responsibility and the right to wipe Hamas off the map. We will support you. I’ll change the station a bit and head back home to America. Tell Biden diplomacy is a weak strategy and appeasement leads to war. They’ve sent money to Iran, both Biden and Obama. Strike in Iran. Cut off the head of the snake. You cannot negotiate with evil.
- Christie: These problems are so big and serious. America is here for Israel and wants to preserve it. Remember Hamas wants to wipe Israel off the map. Three things to Bibi: obligation to protect the territorial integrity of Israel, safety and security of its people, must go in and make sure Hamas never does this again- Israel’s intelligence failed, we need to know what’s going on and keep your eye on the ball. Isolate Iran. Work with the reasonable nations in the Middle East.
Question Three: Given attacks by Iran-proxy groups on US military bases in Syria and Iraq, do you support US military strikes on Iran?
- (Haley says she wears five inch heels and won’t wear them unless she can run in them)
- Haley: We shouldn’t be doing a tit for tat like Biden. We need to take out their infrastructure to stop them attacking. They respond to strength. Biden gave the money to Iran and is telling Bibi to do a ceasefire. We must respond with strength so that Iran understands and backs down.
- DeSantis: I served in Iraq. We shouldn’t put the military in dangerous positions if we aren’t going to back them up. If they hurt a service member then there should be hell to pay. We have to be strong.
Question Four: Jewish students are being threatened and attacked. What do you say to students who are scared? What do you say to the college admins?
- Ramaswamy: It’s sad to see. Anti-Semitism is a deeper symptom of cancer in society. It’s wrong but we must get to the root cause. Leadership not censorship. Dilute this wokeism. We should not censor student groups. It leads to a bad precedent. We quell it through leadership.
- Scott: Federal funding is a privilege not a right. Your visa is a privilege not a right. Any campus that allows for anti-Semitism and hate, you should lose your federal funding today. Anyone on visas should be deported if they support hate. Jewish students should not be scared and told to hide. They have a right to safety. I worked on this in 2017 because even then there was a problem.
- DeSantis: I was the first presidential candidate to say I’d cancel visas of Hamas supporters. Kids are scared to go to campus outside of Florida. Money shouldn’t be going towards them. Deactivated a group of pro-Hamas students. Biden is doing nothing- why is focusing on Islamophobia? We’re not gonna stand for this.
- (Asks Christie about Islamophobia)
- Christie: Was charged by Bush to work on this issue following 9/11. Ethnically diverse state. Protected synagogues with the use of feds and I worked with the mosques to protect them. We developed fabulous relationships with Muslim-Americans and stopped hate crimes against anyone. You must work with both sides and let’s stop the moral equivalence.
- Haley: The country is all out of sorts. Kids are barricaded in the library and are being threatened and having their dorms set on fire. If the KKK were doing this, every college president would be up in arms, and anti-Semitism is just as awful as racism. They would hate and kill you too. We don’t need to celebrate terrorists and genocide. Remember what we are about.
Question Five: The United States has given Ukraine financial and military aid since the war started. If Russia isn’t stopped now, the price will be higher for America and troops will be sent.
- Scott: We’ve been effective in stopping the Russian army but Biden won’t be accountable regarding the money that America has been given. A package that has been offered is the wrong approach. We need to focus on Israel shoulder-to-shoulder then go to the Southern Border with the resources necessary. We have sleeper terrorist cells.
- Ramaswamy: I disagree with sending this much money to Ukraine. Disagrees with the neocons of the race. Ukraine is not a paragon of democracy- has banned opposition, refuses election, celebrates Nazis, state media etc. The regions of Ukraine that are held by Russia are Russian-speaking areas that haven’t been Ukrainian since 2014. Christians are being banned in Ukraine, supported by US dollars.
- Haley: Putin and President Xi are salivating at the thought of Ramaswamy becoming President. We all remember what happened when Ukraine was invaded. No, we shouldn’t give them cash, but ammunition and weapons. Biden could have ended this war earlier. What happened in Afghanistan? We need friends.
- Christie: We were late to WW2 and it killed 500,000 Americans. Iran is in the middle of this, as is North Korea. Both support Russia. Dictators work together. People who believe in democracy work together. In 1992, this country made a promise to Ukraine. If they gave old weapons back to Russia and Russia attacked them, we’d help. Immaturity of approach of those who back dictators.
- DeSantis: We’re not gonna send troops to Ukraine, but we are to the Southern border. I’m going to deport people who have come under Biden. We need to take money from bureaucracy. We need to bring this war to an end. China is the biggest threat.
Question Six: Many Republicans believe that Xi Jinping is a threat to the USA. Is our navy big enough?
- Haley: China has the largest naval fleet in the world and has built up their army. America needs to modernise our military. The Taiwanese want us to support Ukraine. We need to be tough on China by not buying from them. End formal trade agreements until the fentanyl crisis ends. We need the backs of our friends. We should be arming Taiwan.
- DeSantis: We have to have the ability to back up a rejection of Xi’s ambitions. China will export authoritarianism and internet editing and social credit. We’re going to have a path to 600 ships over twenty years. We must decouple from the economy. I banned China from buying land in Florida.
- Scott: We do not have the defence-industrial bank that gives us the stuff we need. A long term threat is China. A short term threat is the Southern border. We’re going to have to invest heavily in our military and an industrial base. We are so old as a military but we are going to have to invest heavily. 4 million new jobs through this industry.
- Ramaswamy: End the toxic divest to invest. Economics is the foundation of war. Our defence industrial base depends on China for the supply chain. Why are we stockpiling that? This is why we can’t get tough with China. We must declare economic independence. This is what Thomas Jefferson would have written back in the day. Attacks Haley and DeSantis on the issues. Must have accountability for the COVID pandemic. Must add 20% to our navy.
- Christie: Nobody is answering the question. China is the enemy. The nuclear submarines are the greatest deterrent to Chinese aggression. If we are going to deter China, they need to not know how many nuclear subs are in the South China Sea. Ships are secondary to the subs. Let them know their blood money isn’t working. The same fate will happen to them if they go to Taiwan if they do what Russia does to Ukraine.
Question Seven: Should TikTok be banned?
- Christie: I agree 100%. TikTok is spyware but it is also polluting the minds of young people. This is intentional. Anti-Semitic stuff is being pushed by the algorithms. This is China trying to further divide the United States further. Trump failed to stop this. When it came down to it but didn’t ban it when he could have and should have. Personal data is being stolen. I would ban it straight away. Facebook and X aren’t in China.
- DeSantis: China is the top threat that we face. We win, they lose. It’s economic and it’s cultural. China’s the most extreme. It’s a full spectrum approach.
- Haley: Hit back at Ramaswamy and DeSantis. Yes, I brought a company, but you are the chair of your economic agency that said Florida is the ideal place for China. Your company manufactures Chinese aeroplanes, two sites that are close to military bases. Mine was ten years ago. He scrubbed the website last week. Hits back at Ramaswamy. I negotiated against dictatorships. Ramaswamy would never be able to negotiate.
- Ramaswamy: Laughs at Haley, whilst her own daughter uses it, sort your own family out (boos, Haley calls him scum and says to leave her daughter alone). Ban any company from handing user data over to China, such as AirBnb. Get to the root cause in Silicon Valley. Democrats are on TikTok. Ramaswamy is supporting Israel on TikTok.
- Scott: Ban TikTok period. Trump tried to ban it twice but federal forces stopped it. Kids should have permission from parents to be on their apps if they are under fourteen. Parental consent is important, but eliminating TikTok is better. China is spying on our kids and buying our farmlands near bases. Make sure they stop stealing intellectual property.
Question Eight: Do you see the political situation in Venezuela and what would your approach be?
- DeSantis: Rip Biden’s Green Energy Bill up and provide American energy, not Venezuelan energy. We work with our friends. The Green Energy Bill is good for our enemies. Venezuela is a corrupt, dictatorial regime. I’d reimpose sanctions. Responds to Haley by talking about fracking but disagrees with fracking in the Florida Everglades.
- Haley: I watched Venezuelan refugees flee socialism and beg for freedom. We should sanction Venezuela and not take their dirty oil. Attacks DeSantis for his take on Venezuela and his liberalism on the environment.
Question Nine: What would you do the moment you take office to help Americans’ cost of living?
- Scott: When your gas prices are 40% higher than two years before, that’s a crisis. Sign the Keystone Pipeline and certainty and predictability to go ahead and become energy effective. America has more resources than anywhere else on the planet. If we focus on building here, not China plan, we can work it out and get 10 million new jobs. Innovation, high tech and energy economy. Disconnect from China and murderous dictators. A good economy brings prices down.
- DeSantis: I worked minimum wage jobs starting out and I believe that working hard in America takes you ahead. People are doing this today but are falling behind. People figure out what they have to take out of the cart at the cash register. We have to restore the American Dream in this country. I’m going to take executive orders and restrictions and rip them up. The Fed should focus on stable prices, not an economic planner.
- Ramaswamy: As a CEO, this question is core to my vision. Increase the supply of energy, drill, frack, burn coal. Increase the supply of housing- land use restrictions are making houses more expensive. A CEO in the White House will understand it. People know that Bidenomics is a lie. Wages have stayed flat. I’m 38, so young, and my generation believes that America doesn’t serve them. People would be more proud of a country if they were making more money.
- Christie: Energy is the key to this because it drives the prices of everything else. We are going to unleash every bit of American energy. Israel’s stability is important to the Middle East, as it affects oil prices in places like Saudi Arabia. We will supply them with everything we need.
- Haley: (asked about rural America) Rich are getting richer but the poor are getting poorer. I’d eliminate the federal gas tax. I’d pump up the Middle Class. I’d get the unspent money back, get back at COVID fraud, stop spending, borrowing and earmarks. Cut trillions. Energy independent and energy dominant. No one should give you a number because interest expense will be larger than our defence spending in a few years. It’s a national security concern. We’re going to look like Japan.
Question Ten: What would you do about Social Security?
- Christie: We need to bring the retirement age up for younger people to save money. There are only three things that determine solvency: retirement age, eligibility and taxes. We are already overtaxed and the rich shouldn’t be collecting it. Glad some things like food stamps are there for the people who need it. Social Security was established as a safety net programme. No specific age.
- Haley: Any candidate who says they won’t take on social security is lying. It will go bankrupt in ten years, as will Medicare in eight. Increases based on inflation. Limit inflation on the wealthy. No specific age. Doesn’t reflect life expectancy.
- Ramaswamy: Agrees with Haley on principle and maths, but the money spent on war is too much. We’d have more if we didn’t spend it on war. Start with zero at the baseline, not last year’s budget. Shut down redundant agencies and get rid of useless bureaucrats. Take off the regulatory shackles. End the endless wars. Cut foreign aid to those with less debt.
- Scott: We have to grow our economy. I will protect Social Security for those who already have it. Don’t pick on seniors who have paid into it. Laffer Curve still works. The lower the tax, the higher the revenue. No, I wouldn’t raise the retirement age.
- DeSantis: I know a few people on Social Security as Governor of Florida. Seniors- promise made, promise kept. They need it. Inflation needs to be reduced because it’s causing more problems. We need to get to at least 3% growth. Congress for decades took money from Social Security and write them an IOU. They need to stop spending money. Life expectancy is declining so we can’t increase the retirement age.
Question Eleven: When NBC News talks to voters, they say the border is an issue. Tens of thousands of families have suffered from fentanyl deaths. What can you do?
- Scott: Close the border, use military technology to watch the border and stop fentanyl coming in. Sanction their accounts and funds. Stop the 70,000 deaths in the past year. We must deal with our ports of entry.
- Christie: We must protect ports of entry. I would invest in law enforcement and that they have every tool. Executive Order to have the national guard work with border agents on Day One. Customs is overwhelmed. We must end supply. We’re going to call fentanyl and addiction a disease, stop supply and lower demand.
- DeSantis: What was salt in the wounds of grieving families is that the elites in DC don’t care. I will send Special Forces to stop the cartel and build the wall via a tax on remittances. Maritime operations will be in use. Shoot cartel smugglers dead.
- Haley: I don’t care what the UN thinks on the matter. We’ve lost more Americans to fentanyl and overdoses than the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghan wars combined. Let’s stop working with China until fentanyl stops. Let’s send Special Forces, keep Remain in Mexico and end funding for sanctuary cities. We must focus on mental health and addiction centres. We don’t do much for mental health.
- Ramaswamy: They’re poisoning people by lacing products with fentanyl- it’s bioterrorism. There’s a new election in Mexico soon and I hope to build a good relationship with them. I’ll use the military to protect our border and seal it. I’ve visited the northern border and there’s a problem there, but I’m the only candidate who has discussed it.
Question Twelve: How do you see the path for Republicans on abortion?
- DeSantis: I believe in a culture of life. My own judicial nominee was nearly aborted by her struggling mother in Jamaica. Things are different across the states so we must work from the bottom up. We’ve been caught flat footed on referendums. These are also Republican voters.
- Haley: We have to be honest- it’s a personal issue. I am unapologetically pro-life because my husband was adopted and I struggled with having my children. I don’t judge anyone for being pro-choice and I don’t want to be judged for being pro-life. I wish it wasn’t the case but it’s what the people want. It will need sixty Senate votes, plus a Republican majority in the House and Republican president. Let’s ban late term abortions, don’t jail women, encourage adoption and make contraceptives easy to get. (receives huge applause). I will sign anything that will get sixty Senate votes.
- Scott: I’m 100% pro-life. I would have a fifteen week federal limit- three out of four Americans agree with this. Europeans often agree. It’s in our nation’s best interests. It’s unethical to allow abortions up until the day of birth. New York and California are reckless. Funding crisis pregnancy centres and adoption. Pro-life before and after the child is born.
- Ramaswamy: Scott is honest about it at least. Is upset about Ohio passing a law codifying abortion essentially up until birth and without parental consent. Men need sexual responsibility. It’s not men’s vs women’s rights, it’s everyone’s right.
- Christie: For fifty years, conservative lawyers have argued that this isn’t to do with the government. Dobbs gave us the victory. People are ignoring the states and going for a federal ban. This should be a states’ issue and I trust the people of this country. There is a divergence across the country depending on the state. We’re not pro life for the whole life. A sixteen year junkie in a Florida lockup has the same right as a baby.
Closing Statements – Any subject you wish to address that hasn’t been
- Scott: There’s a crisis that has been growing. We have a cultural and spiritual crisis. We should turn back to faith, patriotism and personal responsibility. Stop victimhood and believe in victory. If you are able bodied in America, you work. We need to win the war for Christian Values.
- Christie: Thank you for hosting. It’s a gift being an American. There’s personal, petty politics. I’m going to be a president of consequence. I’ll stand up for America and our allies. Our differences have always been our strength. I’ll return honesty.
- Ramaswamy: We’ve talked a lot about foreign wars, but what about the war in those who love and hate America. We need to know we’re in a war. A leader should be young and not captured by special interests. Biden should step aside.
- Haley: The world is on fire. There’s war in Europe and in the Middle East. We must defeat terrorism and socialism. We must know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. Go back to the soul of America. We can’t win 21st century wars with 20th century politics. God bless.
- DeSantis: I will take the hits, because it’s not about me, it’s about you. I will fight and win for you and your family. As a veteran, I will always put service above self. I will ensure the country is given to our children in a better state. I served as Governor of Florida and will do the same as leader. As your president, I will not let you down.
Well that was the least worst of the debates, which was saying something. Fewer candidates meant less talking over and interruptions, whilst the moderators seemed to have a better grip than before. That being said, it doesn’t feel like there was much substance to the debate.
Haley got the most attacks, especially from Ramaswamy with a side helping from DeSantis. She didn’t like the comment on her daughter Rena, that was for sure. It seemed less personal overall and there was some consensus, but there was still a lot of squabbling. Ramaswamy made some good points about how the GOP was handling elections, but the way he said it caused some tensions. Candidates got some good applause between them, though it seems Haley’s comments on abortion seemed to get the most appreciation. As nice as Scott seems as a person, I think it’s fair to say he isn’t going to get super far, and maybe he wasn’t necessary.
Polling showed that Haley did the best, but polls aren’t always an accurate thing. It’s probably easy to find a few people who thought that a different person did the best and a different person did the worst. Ramaswamy’s comment on Haley’s daughter and Haley’s “scum” response seem to be what the media is reporting on the most.
Roll on debate four. Gosh, I am glad that I live in the UK.