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Highlights from the Fourth Republican primary debate

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, tech mogul Vivek Ramaswamy, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie all participated in the fourth GOP primary debate.

Published: December 6, 2023 8:12pm

Updated: December 6, 2023 9:55pm

The fourth Republican presidential primary debate saw a litany of tense exchanges between the candidates on a range of issues.

In one exchange, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis excoriated former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday over his position of deferring to parents on gender transitions.

"I trust parents," Christie had said, asserting that Republicans more broadly support minimal government intervention in their lives.

"You do not have the right to abuse your kids," DeSantis retorted, before touting his own legislative history on the issue. "This is cutting off their genitals. This is mutilating these minors."

The Florida governor and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley subsequently bickered about their respective records on the issue, with DeSantis saying Haley had stopped a bathroom bill whereas he signed one.

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Republicans traded barbs over their respective vows to stand tough on China, with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attacking one another on their records, while tech mogul Vivek Ramaswamy suggested some of America's fentanyl problems stemmed from a broader mental health problem.

Haley had criticized former President Donald Trump's China policies, but lamented that Trump had not firmly addressed the Chinese shipping of fentanyl components to Mexico and that nation's land purchases, prompting a DeSantis interjection.

"When she was governor of South Carolina, she was the number one-ranked governor of bringing the CCP into her state," DeSantis said. "She's been very week on China... here's the problem: her donors... they make money in China."

Ramaswamy, for his part, focused on the fentanyl issue, but noted that dealing with the Chinese and Mexican cabals producing fentanyl would only address half of the issue.

"A lot of these are coming from labs in Wuhan, China of all places, drug materials that are going to the Mexican drug cartels. That they're pumping across that southern border like a modern opium war," Ramaswamy said. He further supported destroying the drug labs in Mexico run by the cartels.

"The harder part is dealing with the crisis of purpose and meaning... we're deluding ourselves, the real false promise here is thinking that we're gonna have dealt with that underlying mental health epidemic... by just dealing with the demand side of it.

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Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie slammed tech mogul Vivek Ramaswamy as the "most obnoxious blowhard in America" during an exchange on foreign affairs in which Ramaswamy suggested former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley did not know the names of eastern Ukrainian provinces.

"This is a smart, accomplished woman and you should stop insulting her," Christie said.

"I think we just learned something from Chris Christie... first of all, Chris Christie also doesn't know what provinces in eastern Ukraine he also wants to fight for," Ramaswamy replied.

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Tech mogul Vivek Ramaswamy levied criticisms against former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley over their responses to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Moderators pressed Ramaswamy on his prior criticisms of Haley for deeming the attack one on America and her calls to "finish them." 

"Finish them was purposely vague in a discussion that included Iran," Ramaswamy said.

"To say that that was an attack on America, fails a basic test... That is irresponsible because it has major consequences and doesn't leave room for what actually is an attack [on America]," he said.

"Americans were killed in that attack," DeSantis added. "Our own people were killed in that attack and I think it's absolutely appropriate to point that out and to say that we're in this together." A point with which Ramaswamy agreed.

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Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday faced dueling criticisms from Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis and tech mogul Vivek Ramaswamy on her prior calls to require digital I.D.

"We're marching towards fascism under Biden," Ramaswamy said, before noting that special counsel Jack Smith had reviewed the users who interacted with Trump tweets. "The only person more fascist than the Biden regime is Nikki Haley who thinks the government should identify every one of those individuals with an I.D. That is not freedom, that is fascism.

"I will always fight for freedom of speech for Americans," Haley replied. "We do not need freedom of speech for Russians, and Iranians, and Hamas... I never said government should go and require anyone's name."

"That's false. She said 'I want your name,'" DeSantis retorted. "She said one of the first things I'm gonna do 'all social medias, I want your name.'"

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Four Republican presidential candidates took the debate stage on Wednesday evening.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, tech mogul Vivek Ramaswamy, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie all participated in the forum, which is one of the last opportunities for each to present themselves as the strongest alternative to former President Donald Trump before the start of the primary contests.

Trump, for his part, did not attend and has not participated in any primary debate. He currently stands as the clear frontrunner, leading DeSantis by 47.5% in the RealClearPolitics polling average.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.

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