TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The fourth Republican presidential debate saw no shortage of fireworks, including plenty of name-calling and personal jabs between the participating candidates.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley repeatedly clashed in heated exchanges throughout the debate, which was held on the campus of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday.
Here are the top five fiery moments from the debate:
1. DeSantis and Ramaswamy pile on Haley over ties to billionaire donors
The debate opened with Haley drawing the ire of DeSantis and Ramaswamy when she defended her ties to banking billionaires and other wealthy individuals.
‘Look, we will take support from anybody we can take support from,’ Haley said, arguing that support from corporate billionaires didn’t translate to her automatically agreeing with them on policy.
Ramaswamy ripped Haley for accepting money from corporate CEOs he said were supporters of environment, social, governance (ESG) investing, a strategy where environmental factors, such as how a corporation contributes to pollution or climate change, are included in investment decisions.
He went on to accuse Haley of being ‘corrupt,’ citing her status as a millionaire after only being out of government for a few years, to which she defended herself by accusing DeSantis and Ramaswamy of being ‘jealous’ that she had the support of those billionaires.
DeSantis jumped in, warning that Haley’s donors were aiming ‘to use economic power to impose a left-wing agenda’ on the country before Ramaswamy joked that Haley used a book he previously wrote criticizing ESG as ‘a how-to manual’ rather than a warning about such policies.
2. Christie calls Ramaswamy an ‘obnoxious blowhard’ as he defends Haley
Christie stepped in to defend Haley from Ramaswamy after he attacked her support for aiding Ukraine in its ‘pointless’ war with Russia.
‘One thing that Joe Biden and Nikki Haley have in common is that neither of them could state for you three provinces in Eastern Ukraine that they want to send our troops to … She has no idea what the hell the names of those provinces are, but she wants to send our sons and daughters and our troops and our military equipment to go fight,’ Ramaswamy said.
Christie interjected, accusing Ramaswamy of wanting to concede ‘stolen’ land to Russia, beginning a nearly inaudible shouting match between the two, which culminated in Christie calling Ramaswamy an ‘obnoxious blowhard.’
‘We’re now 25 minutes into this debate, and he has now insulted Nikki Haley’s basic intelligence, not her positions, her basic intelligence,’ Christie said. ‘I’ve known her for 12 years, longer than he’s even started to vote in a Republican primary, and while we disagree on some issues … what we don’t disagree on is this is a smart, accomplished woman. You should stop insulting her.’
‘Your version of foreign policy experience was closing a bridge from New Jersey to New York. So, do everybody a favor, just walk yourself off that stage, enjoy a nice meal, and get the hell out of this race,’ Ramaswamy hit back.
3. Ramaswamy holds up a sheet of paper accusing Haley of corruption
While railing against Haley for what he described as utilization of identity politics, Ramaswamy held up his debate notebook to reveal he had written, in large letters, ‘NIKKI = CORRUPT.’
Prior to holding up the paper, Ramaswamy blasted Haley’s use of her gender in her campaign, citing various instances she had referenced being a woman.
‘She said that I have a woman problem. Nikki, I don’t have a woman problem. You have a corruption problem, and I think that’s what people need to know. Nikki is corrupt,’ Ramaswamy said as he held up the sign.
‘This is a woman who will send your kids to die, so she can buy a bigger house. This is the problem. Using identity politics more effectively than Kamala Harris is a form of intellectual fraud,’ he said.
4. Haley and DeSantis continue their months-long spat on China
DeSantis slammed Haley as the ‘number one’ governor for bringing the Chinese Communist Party into her state during her time leading South Carolina, citing a video of her welcoming a Chinese company as she stood next to a Chinese flag.
He went on to argue her ‘liberal donors’ wouldn’t allow her to be tough on China.
‘First of all, he’s mad because those Wall Street donors used to support him, and now they support me,’ Haley retorted, before arguing DeSantis had his own history of bringing Chinese companies into Florida.
DeSantis rejected the claim, stating one of the companies she named was an American company, and that he banned the Chinese from buying land in his state.
‘I have a record of standing up and doing what’s right,’ DeSantis said, to which Haley responded, ‘You have a record of lying.’
5. Christie lays into DeSantis on question about former President Donald Trump’s age
Christie laid into DeSantis after the latter avoided directly answering a question about whether Trump, 77, was still ‘mentally fit’ to serve as president, and instead stressed the need for a new generation of leaders.
‘Why doesn’t he just answer the question? The question was very direct. Is he fit to be president or isn’t he? The rest of the speech is interesting, but completely non-responsive. And if we were in a courtroom, they’d strike the answer … They would strike the answer because you’re not answering it,’ Christie said.
DeSantis jumped in, interrupting Christie as the two began inaudibly talking over each other.
‘Is he fit or isn’t he?’ Christie repeatedly yelled until the moderators eventually stopped the back-and-forth.
DeSantis repeated another version of his previous answer before Christie said,’ He won’t answer. He’s afraid to answer.’
‘No I’m not!’ DeSantis yelled.
The two again began speaking inaudibly over each other before the moderators were forced to halt the conversation another time. Christie then accused his opponents of being ‘afraid to offend’ Trump.