Republican presidential debate kicks off in Miami for third showdown

Republican presidential debate: Vivek Ramaswamy calls Nikki Haley ‘Dick Cheney in three-inch heels’

  • Tensions ran high Wednesday as five candidates took stage for the third Republican presidential primary debate 
  • Field is slimmed down from the first debate stage, which had eight contenders 
  • FOLLOW ALONG with’s Republican primary debate live blog  

Nikki Haley slapped down Vivek Ramaswamy for calling her ‘Dick Cheney in three-inch heels’ in a vindictive start to the third Republican presidential debate in Miami.

Tensions were running high as Ramaswamy reached new lows by launching personal attacks at his rivals as the candidates went to battle to try and catch the frontrunner Donald Trump.

Haley demanded Ramaswamy keep her daughter’s name out of his mouth after he said she had a TikTok account and said China and Russia were ‘salivating’ over the prospect of him becoming president.

She also later clarified that her heels are five inches and double as ‘ammunition.’

From the get-go, the Republican primary debate in Miami, Florida on Wednesday saw candidates’ blood boiling as Ramaswamy seemed to be competing with himself for the more outrageous sound bite in his bitter showdowns with Haley. 

Biotech millionaire Vivek Ramaswamy (right) called former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley (left) ‘Dick Cheney in three-inch heels.’ She later clarified that her heels are actually five-inches tall and say they are for ‘ammunition’ and slammed her competitor for foreign policy by claiming Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are ‘salivating at the thought that someone like that could become president’

The top three contenders on-stage at the Republican presidential primary debate on Wednesday came out guns-blazing against Donald Trump, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, the moderators and each other as tensions ran high from the get-go. Picture from L: Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy

The candidates took swings at Donald Trump, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, the moderators and each other.

Ramaswamy attacked NBC News hosts Lester Holt and Kristen Welker and said the moderators should be replaced with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, podcast host Joe Rogan and Tesla and X CEO Elon Musk.

He also went after Haley for attacking him for campaigning on TikTok, claiming that he daughter was a user of the app.

‘Leave my daughter out of your voice,’ Haley said. ‘You’re scum.’

Haley later shot back at Ramaswamy during a discussion on foreign policy: ‘I am telling you, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and President Xi [Jinping] are salivating at the thought that someone like that could become president, they would love [it].’

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Ramaswamy, Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took the stage Wednesday night for the third Republican presidential primary debate in Miami, Florida. 


DeSantis used his opening statement at the debate to go after former President Trump.

‘Donald Trump’s a lot different guy than he was in 2016,’ the Florida governor said from center stage. ‘He owes it to you to be here and explain why he should get another chance.’

He blamed the ex-president for the Republican losses in Tuesday’s elections.

Haley repeated DeSantis’ sentiments about Trump during her opening remarks, claiming he was ‘the right president at the right time.’ 

But Ramaswamy says RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel is to blame for the losses. 

The thinning field had candidates – and spectators – optimistic for a more thoughtful debate before the candidates took the stage.

It was clear right when the debate kicked-off that a more mature debate wasn’t what Americans would get on Wednesday.

But the most explosive comments came from Ramaswamy, who came out of the gate guns blazing.

The millionaire biotech entrepreneur dared Republican National Committee Chair McDaniel to come out on stage and resign – as well as demanding the moderators be replaced to boost viewership of regular Americans.

‘I think there’s something deeper going on in the Republican Party here, and I am upset about what happened last night,’ Ramaswamy said, referencing a slew of GOP election losses, including in his home state of Ohio.

‘We’ve become a party of losers at the end of the day with the cancer of the Republican establishment,’ he added. ‘Let’s speak the truth. Since Ronna McDaniel took over as chairwoman of the RNC in 2017, we have lost 2018, 2020, 2022 – no red wave that never came.’

‘For that matter, Ronna, if you want to come on stage tonight, you want to look the GOP voters in the eye and tell them you resign, I’ll turn over and yield my time to you,’ he dared.

He continued in his first statements from the stage on Wednesday: ‘Think about who’s moderating this debate. This should be Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogen and Elon Musk. We’d have ten times the viewership.’

‘And we’ve got the Democrats and we’ve got Kristen Welker here. Do you think the Democrats would actually hire Greg Gutfeld to host a democratic debate? They wouldn’t do it.’

‘Kristen – I’m going to use this time because this is about you in the media and the corrupt media establishment, ask you – the Trump-Russia collusion hoax that you pushed on this network for years, was that real or Hillary Clinton made-up disinformation? Answer the question. Go,’ he demanded.

The NBC News moderator did not get a chance to respond as the audience applauded and cheered.

Ramaswamy said the ‘media rigged’ the 2016 and 2020 elections.

Five candidates took the stage Wednesday night for the third debate in the most thinned-out field so far of the 2024 primary. Pictured from L: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott

Ramaswamy dared Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel (pictured Wednesday) to come back on stage and demanded she resign because of the slew of Republican election loses since her election. ‘Ronna, if you want to come on stage tonight, you want to look the GOP voters in the eye and tell them you resign, I’ll turn over and yield my time to you,’ Ramaswamy said during his opening remarks

Campaigns threw the first few punches ahead of the debate this week and previewed a vicious show-down between DeSantis and Haley, who are tied in some key primary states like Iowa and are vying for the spot as Donald Trump’s top competitor.

The former president, meanwhile, is down the road in Hialeah, Florida holding a rally for his supporters who still feel he’s the only Republican that can win in 2024.

Ramaswamy expects to field attacks like he did at the first two debates – but is hopeful for a more ‘substantive, natural, thoughtful discussion’ with the slimmed field.

‘I think that down to five people it’s going to be a little bit more useful than seven children speaking over me on stage over the last first debates. Certainly the second one – the second was totally useless,’ Ramaswamy told reporters after a pre-debate night party on Tuesday in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami.

‘So with that thinned down field, I’m hoping to make more use of tomorrow’s stage than we have in the past,’ he added.

DeSantis has the home field advantage, but the flip side is he has certainly faced more harsh criticism than other candidates heading to the Sunshine State – especially from Democrats and Trump supporters.

The Florida governor is looking to build momentum after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds endorsed him in her crucial primary caucus state.

The third Republican primary debate is airing live from the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami, Florida. It started at 8pm EST and concludes at 10pm.

Viewers can tune-in for the event on NBC News as well as stream it live on anti-censorship YouTube alternative Rumble and NBC News NOW. 

Co-hosting the event are NBC News, Salem Radio Network, the Republican Jewish Coalition and Rumble.

The trio of moderators are NBC’s Lester Holt, NBC’s Kristen Welker and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt of Salem Radio Network.

As usual, the Republican National Committee (RNC) is sanctioning the debate and has set the rules for qualification – as well as serving as the entity that determines which candidates have met those thresholds.

Many of the usual supporters of Donald Trump demonstrating at the debates were missing because the ex-president was hosting a rally just 30-minutes away in Hialeah, Florida. Pictured: Protesters outside the debate location in Miami on Wednesday hold up a sign reading, ‘Trump or WWIII’ 

The RNC also decides the lineup for the debate based on polling and announced the official qualifiers on Monday.

DeSantis took stand center stage – as he has done for every debate so far – and was flanked by Haley and Ramaswamy while the end were rounded about by Scott and Christie.

Only six candidates met the donor and polling criteria to take part in the third debate as qualifications become more stringent further into the campaign and contenders withdraw their candidacy. And only five signed the pledge required to debate.

Between the last debate and now, former Vice President Mike Pence, who was on stage for the first debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and second debate in Simi Valley, California, withdrew from the primary contest.

The first debate in August saw a stage with eight candidates, the second debate went down to seven candidates after former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson failed to meet the donor and state-level polling thresholds.

The third event shrank to just five candidates.

By Monday, November 6 candidates needed to garner 70,000 unique donors, including 200 from at least 20 different states.

In terms of polling, the contenders needed to earn 4 percent in two different national polls.

Alternatively, candidates could earn 4 percent in just one national as well as 4 percent in two separate statewide polls in two of the four early primary states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Candidates are still required to sign the ‘loyalty pledge,’ a new qualification installed by the RNC this year requiring candidates to vow to support the eventual 2024 GOP nominee in order to participate in the debates.

The pledge also precludes any candidates who sign it from participating in non-RNC sanctioned debates for the remainder of the 2024 election cycle.

Trump has refused to sign the pledge – one of the many reasons he has declined to participate in the debates thus far.

He has repeatedly said he would not participate in the primary debates because the events are beneath him – and he might not be wrong. The ex-president remains far ahead of the rest of the primary field, consistently polling dozens of points ahead of any No. 2 finisher, which is usually Gov. DeSantis.

Instead, he has urged his 2024 GOP competitors to drop out of the race and endorse his bid.

Trump’s rally in Hialeah, Florida is about 15 miles away from the debate stage and less than a 30-minute drive from downtown Miami. It kicked-off an hour before the debate.

During the first debate in August, Trump’s pre-recorded interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson started airing exactly five minutes before his competitors took stage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Then, during the debate in September, Trump spoke to autoworkers in Detroit, Michigan amid the strikes resulting from ongoing negotiations between auto industry companies and the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union.

Meanwhile the former president’s competitors were on-stage debating at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Republican contenders have repeatedly expressed their extreme distaste with Trump snubbing the debates – and have called him out on stage.

Former Gov. Christie said in California that ‘Donald ducked’ the debates because he was ‘afraid’ to go toe-to-toe with the rest of the field. And DeSantis said Trump didn’t want to be forced to face his record in front of the American people.

At the second debate in September, DeSantis said: ‘Donald Trump is missing in action. He should be on this stage tonight.’

After qualifying for the previous two debates, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum failed to earn the nationally polling requirements to participate in the third debate.

Gov. Hutchinson was on stage at the first debate, but was the only candidate who qualified for the first but not the second. He has still not dropped out of the contest despite failing to make the stage for the latest debate.

Ryan Binkley, who has not qualified for a debate stage yet, is still in the running.

Miami Mayor Frances Suarez, Pence, Elder, Johnson, Hurd and former Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton have all dropped out of the race so far.

Conservative radio host Larry Elder and author Perry Johnson both dropped out of the race and endorsed Trump.

Former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, who was also once in the running, endorsed Haley when he suspended his campaign for president. Pence and Suarez have not yet said who they are backing for 2024 after dropping out.

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