The Miami televised debate of the new Republican presidential candidate, David DeSantis: What do you think? When will you know if Mr. Trump wins?
Fewer candidates will mean less competition for time — which could make it easier for one candidate to break out and, at least potentially, be seen as the main rival to Donald J. Trump. The former president is hosting a rally in Miami while his rivals spar. And the debate clock is ticking down — right now, there is only one more on the schedule, on Dec. 6 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. — so the candidates will be looking to make the most of this televised moment.
Ms. Haley has drawn more attention in recent weeks, as other candidates — most notably former Vice President Mike Pence — have lost support or dropped out. She has a chance to become the top Trump alternatives if she uses her strength in the race.
Of the three undercards, Mr. Scott is, in the view of Republicans, the only one who seems to have much chance of breaking through. He has been overshadowed by those in higher visibility, and the likelihood that this debate will be focused on some people will not make things easier for him.
At the first two debates, Mr. DeSantis played the front-runner, attacking his opponents only when he was hit first. That might not work anymore as he is under increasing pressure to slow Ms. Haley’s rise in the polls and reassure voters who may have come to question his political agility and strength as a general election candidate.
The attacks from Mr. Trump on everything from his foreign policy credentials to his height have made this stretch very difficult for Mr. DeSantis. The governor of Miami won re- election last year and is very popular with the locals. And this week he drew the endorsement of Kim Reynolds, the governor of Iowa. He has a goal of doing well in the state’s first caucuses on January 15.
“What do you attack?” he said in an interview. I will respond if he says something I think is worth responding to. But I’ve now spent four hours on the debate stage with him, and I haven’t heard him say one thing worthy of being responded to.”
Foreign Policy and the Republican Party in the Pre-Palomar Republican Nominating Campaign: Is It Over before the Vote?
Foreign policy, with some noteworthy exceptions over the years, has not proved determinative in presidential nominating contests. But the war in Ukraine and the bloodshed in the Middle East are likely to feature prominently at the debate on Wednesday.
The Republican Party is divided over whether to follow the path of Mr. Trump or not, as a result of his questions about U.S assistance to Ukraine. The candidates are likely to be pressed on whether they back House Speaker Mike Johnson’s first major proposal — a plan to tie money for Ukraine to a border bill unpopular with Democrats.
The Republican Party is more unified in its support of Israel than the Democrats are, but the conflict has led to some of the field’s harsher criticism of Mr. Trump.
At the Republican Jewish Coalition gathering last month, Ms. Haley, who has more experience in foreign policy than her rivals on the stage, attacked Mr. Trump for calling Hezbollah “very smart” and describing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel as weak days after the deadly attack by Hamas on Israeli settlers.
In the first debate, Mr. Ramaswamy was an energetic debater but he became more of a target in the second debate. As he registers in the single-digits in many polls, he does not loom as a major force in the race going into tonight. And Mr. Christie could hardly be more out of step with much of the Republican Party with his relentless attacks on Mr. Trump: He is routinely booed at Republican events.
How many people will be watching is a big question. In the first debate, viewers watched 12 million, in the second they watched just under 10 million. Unless Mr. Trump makes a dramatic last-minute appearance on the stage, that seems unlikely to change.
It is not a surprise that the audience is waning. The race for the Republican presidential nomination can feel like it is over before a single vote is cast, even though large swaths of the party may be open to nominating someone other than Trump.
Israel’s Republican Candidate Debate in Tense G.O.P. Debate: What is the Fate of Pro-life?
The candidates for the Republican presidential nomination tried to talk about issues such as the fate of Social Security during the third debate, which turned into a torrent of personal attacks.
The debate in Miami came a day after voters across the country rebuked the Republican Party, especially over abortion rights. But that issue, which drove voters to the polls in Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and elsewhere on Tuesday, did not appear until an hour and 40 minutes in.
Once it did, the candidates showed the party’s divide. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina emphatically expressed support for a federal ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Chris Christie, who served as governor of NJ, said it should be up to the states. The entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy spoke of “sexual responsibility for men,” suggesting that widely available paternity tests could be used to force men to take responsibility for pregnancies that should not be terminated.
“I don’t judge anyone for being pro-choice, and I don’t want them judging me for being pro-life,” she said, adding, “Stop the judgment. We don’t need to divide America over this issue anymore.”
The first votes of the Republican primary season will be cast in less than two months in Iowa, yet the debaters continued to compete for second place despite their best attempts to fire up the crowd against Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump didn’t attend the third time due to counterprogramming at a simultaneous rally in nearby Hialeah, Fla. The five candidates that attended saved their harshest attacks for each other despite a few harmless jabs at Trump.
TikTok: Why should Republicans pick them over Mr. Trump in the House of Deputies? (Revisiting the debate with me and Ms. Haley)
There was a heated exchange about the issue of TikTok. After Mr. Ramaswamy bragged about using the Chinese-owned social media network to broadcast his message, he turned to his nemesis, Ms. Haley, and mocked her daughter for using the app.
The issues that the debate addressed are: whether a soaring budget deficit required a higher retirement age for Social Security and Medicare, how the United States should back Israel against Hamas andUkraine against Russia, and how a president could immediately address the strain of inflation in everyday debate.
It even strayed into stultifying territory, as the conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt, one of the moderators, demanded to know exactly how many new ships should be added to the U.S. Navy to confront China.
But in the end, it was unclear how the five candidates onstage could catch Mr. Trump if they would not directly answer the question that started and ended the debate: Why should Republican voters choose them over Mr. Trump?