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Republican debate: Ratings plunge to lowest yet in 2024 presidential cycle

The fourth Republican debate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, this week pulled in the lowest ratings yet of all GOP primary debates during the 2024 presidential race.

Over 4 million people tuned in to NewsNation and The CW to watch Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Chris Christie go head-to-head on stage on Wednesday night.

This is down from 7 million viewers of the third debate, which was down from 9 million and 12.8 million from the second and first.

Wednesday’s debate frequently veered out of control as most of the attacks focused on former UN Ambassador Ms Haley who has been rising in the polls.

Entrepreneur Mr Ramaswamy was met with boos from the audience when he called her “corrupt” and a “fascist” before going on a screed about her foreign policy experience, saying experience isn’t “wisdom”.

Former New Jersey Governor Mr Christie finally had enough of Mr Ramaswamy calling him “the most obnoxious blowhard in America”.

On Thursday, CNN announced that they will host two debates in January – one on the 10th in Iowa, and another on the 21st in New Hampshire.

Key Points

Ramaswamy slammed for being ‘one step away from Nazi propaganda'

14:30 , Gustaf Kilander

Vivek Ramaswamy faced severe criticism from Van Jones on CNN after the debate for his pushing of the racist great replacement theory.

“I was shaking listening to him talk because a lot of people don’t know that is one step away from Nazi propaganda coming out of his mouth,” Mr Jones said of the entrepreneur.

Debate attacks on Trump decrease from first debate even has his polling lead widens

14:00 , Gustaf Kilander

For each debate, the candidates have been more willing to attack each other rather than Donald Trump, the frontrunner who’s far ahead in the polling and whose lead has only increased since the debates began in August.

A Politico analysis revealed that on Wednesday night, the four candidates went after each other just four times while Mr Trump came under fire on just nine occasions, with only Chris Christie spending serious time attacking Mr Trump.

During the first debate several months ago, Mr Trump had 52 per cent in the national polls and he faced 10 attacks in the initial showdown. His support has now risen to 60 per cent, but the attacks against him have decreased.

Part of the reason is that the ex-governor from the Garden State is the only real Trump critic left in the race, with the other having either dropped out or been unable to qualify for the debate – former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson attacked Mr Trump twice in the first on-stage clash but has since been unable to qualify while Mr Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence attacked him in both of the first two debates but ended his campaign before the third.

Best moments from the 2023 GOP presidential debates

13:31 , Natalie Chinn

The Independent has rounded up the funniest, messiest, and most outrageous GOP debate stage moments from 2023.

There were four Republican presidential primary debates this year, with the first taking place in August. At the first debate, there were eight candidates present. At the fourth one, only four candidates were invited to join. Donald Trump did not participate in any primary debates.

The main players were consistently Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Ron DeSantis.

From yelling over each other about policy to poking fun at footwear, the Republican candidates showed their true colors on stage this year.

Key takeaways from Republican debate: Ramaswamy branded a ‘blowhard’ and Haley under attack in GOP showdown

13:30 , John Bowden

The fourth Republican debate is over, and what did we learn? Not much, beyond how little these people seem to like each other.

Wednesday night’s showdown in Alabama touched on issues which previous debates skipped over — most glaringly, the GOP’s culture war against transgender Americans. But the main feature of the last meetup of the four underdog Republican candidates seems to have been the animosity which spilled out into view at multiple points.

Obviously, the frontrunner, Donald Trump, was once again absent. So none of this really mattered in the grand scheme of the 2024 Republican primary; he is the wide favourite to win the nomination, and remains so after tonight. But what tonight’s debate really did was illustrate the greater state of the modern Republican Party, and what kind of candidate everyone who is not Donald Trump, the Republican insiders, believe their party wants to see — if not now, then in 2028.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the last Republican debate of the year, and probably the election cycle, as we prepare for the Iowa caucuses next month.

Ramaswamy pushes litany of far-right baseless conspiracy theories

13:00 , John Bowden and Gustaf Kilander

If you thought Vivek Ramaswamy being described as “scum” on live TV would show the peak (or the depths) of his rivals’ disgust, Wednesday night was either a welcome surprise or even a shock.

The 38-year-old was his typical pugnacious self at Wednesday’s debate, and this time the candidates were ready for him. Nikki Haley, who last time let her southern charm slip for just a moment, would only smile as he came after her again tonight. Chris Christie, meanwhile, had a prepared takedown of the Republican newcomer ready and waiting — one for which Ms Ramaswamy had no real defence.

Even after the debate, Mr Ramaswamy saw no relief. His performance was torn apart by NewsNation’s panel, where former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney dubbed him an unserious candidate several times. If Mr Ramaswamy gained anything tonight, it was a national stage to declare his allegiance to the GOP’s furthest right wing with his endorsement of Donald Trump’s 2020 election lies, his denunciation of the scientific consensus on climate change, and his embrace of the so-called “Great Replacement” conspiracy.

Mr Ramaswamy said, “all three of my other colleagues on this debate stage have been licking Donald Trump’s boots for years for money and endorsements”.

“Ron DeSantis you’ve been a great governor, but you would have never been one without actually begging Donald Trump for that endorsement to you,” he added.

“I think the real enemy is not Donald Trump. It’s not even Joe Biden. It is the deep state that at least Donald Trump attempted to take on and if you want somebody who’s going to speak truth to power, then vote for somebody who’s going to speak the truth to you,” he said.

“Why am I the only person on the stage at least who can say that January 6 now does look like it was an inside job, that the government lied to us for 20 years about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in 9/11?” he asked. “That the great replacement theory is not some grand white-wing conspiracy theory but a basic statement of the Democratic Party’s platform that the 2020 election was indeed stolen by big tech, that the 2016 election, the one that Trump won, for sure, was also one that was stolen from him by the national security establishment.”

‘We need a president that can serve two terms’

12:00 , Gustaf Kilander

Mr DeSantis argued on stage on Wednesday that Mr Trump is too old to be president.

“The idea that we’re going to put someone up there that’s almost 80 and there’s going to be no effects from that – We all know that that’s not true,” he said.

“We have an opportunity to get the next generation of leaders and really be able to move this country, but we also need a president that can serve two terms,” he added.

GOP debate ratings plummet to 4 million viewers

11:47 , Rachel Sharp

The fourth Republican debate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, this week pulled in the lowest ratings yet of all GOP primary debates during this 2024 presidential race.

Over 4 million people tuned in to NewsNation and The CW to watch Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Chris Christie go head-to-head on stage on Wednesday night.

This is down from 7 million viewers of the third debate, which was down from 9 million and 12.8 million from the second and first.

Despite the lower numbers, the debate coverage actually marked a record for NewsNation, marking the cable news channel’s largest audience ever.

“NewsNation was incredibly honored to host last night’s debate, and we are very pleased that so many viewers tuned-in and watched,” Sean Compton, president of networks for Nexstar Media, said in a statement.

“This debate represents a remarkable achievement for a cable news network that is just barely three years old. We’re very proud of the NewsNation team, the great job done by the moderators, and the overall production. In the end, the real winners last night were the nation’s voters.”

‘This is an angry, bitter man'

11:00 , Gustaf Kilander

Mr Christie went after Mr Trump on Wednesday night, saying, “There’s no mystery to what he wants to do. He started off his campaign by saying I am your retribution”.

“Eight years ago, he said I am your voice. This is an angry, bitter man who now wants to be back as president because he wants to exact retribution on anyone who has disagreed with him,” he added.

“Anyone who has tried to hold him to account for his own conduct, and every one of these policies that he’s talking about, are about pursuing a plan of retribution. And yet, at the first debate, my three colleagues on this stage when asked if he would be convicted of federal felonies, would they still support him – they raised their hands, looked into the camera and let everybody know that they would still support him, even if he’s convicted,” he added.

“Let me make it clear. His conduct is unacceptable. He’s unfit and be careful what you’re gonna get ... he’s letting you know. ‘I am your retribution.’ ... He will only be his own retribution,” he said.

‘Europe is committing suicide with mass migration,’ DeSantis says

10:00 , Gustaf Kilander

Arguing against multi-culturalism as he went on an anti-immigration screed, Mr DeSantis said, “look what’s happened in Europe. You have more antisemitism in Germany than at any time since Adolf Hitler. Why? Because they imported mass numbers of people who reject their culture”.

“Europe is committing suicide with the mass migration,” he said.

“We should not be importing people from cultures that are hostile,” he added.

Moderators ask candidates about Trump’s Muslim ban

09:00 , Gustaf Kilander

The moderators asked about Mr Trump’s intention to reinstate his Muslim ban, restricting international travel from Muslim-majority countries.

“I don’t think that you have a straight-up Muslim ban as much as you look at the countries that had terrorist activity that want to hurt Americans,” Ms Haley said.

“What worries me the most are those that came from Iran, from Yemen, from Lebanon, those areas where they say ‘Death to America’. That’s where you want to be careful. It’s not about a religion. It’s about the fact that certain countries are dangerous and are threats to us.”

‘We will shut down government agencies that should not exist’

08:00 , Gustaf Kilander

Mr Ramaswamy outlined the massive cuts he intends to make if elected.

“In my administration, by the end of year one, we will have a 75 per cent reduction in the number of federal bureaucrats, we will shut down government agencies that should not exist,” he said. “We will rescind any regulation that fails the test of West Virginia vs EPA, which is the most important Supreme Court case of our lifetime.”

That said if Congress didn’t delegate that to an administrative agency, then it’s unconstitutional. These are seismic changes. These are big changes that the next president can deliver without asking Congress for permission or for forgiveness,” he added. “And I want people to understand that distinction because people have been sold myths by politicians for a long time saying, ‘I’m going to work with Congress to do this or that much of what you heard on the stage from the other politicians fit that description’. They need Congress, the things that I’m promising you is what the leader of the executive branch gets to do under Article Two of the Constitution.”

DeSantis pushed on policy ‘amounting to extra-judicial killings’

07:00 , Gustaf Kilander

The moderators asked Mr DeSantis: “You have pledged to send the military to the southern border on day one of your administration with orders to shoot quote ‘stone cold dead’ anyone illegally entering with a backpack that you believe contains fentanyl. Critics have called this a shoot-first ask-questions-later policy that would amount to extra-judicial killing. You are a former military lawyer. Why do you think this idea of yours would be legal? “

“The drug cartels are invading our country and they are killing our citizens by the tens of thousands,” he said. “Every year, we had a situation in Florida, there was an 18-month-old baby that was crawling on the floor of an Airbnb rental. There was fentanyl residue on the carpet and the baby died. Is this acceptable in this country?”

“I know that elites in DC don’t care. They don’t care that fentanyl is ravaging your community. They don’t care that illegal aliens are ravaging our community and overwhelming our community,” he added. “The commander in chief not only has a right, you have a responsibility to fight back against these people.”

Christie calls Trump ‘Voldemort'

06:00 , Gustaf Kilander

Mr Christie criticised his opponents for not discussing Donald Trump, saying, “The truth needs to be spoken. He is unfit”.

“The fact is when you go and you say the truth about somebody who is a dictator, a bully who has taken shots at everybody, whether they’ve given him great service or not over time, who dares to disagree with him, then I understand why these three are timid to say anything about it,” Mr Christie said, referring to Mr Trump as “Voldemort and “he-who-shall-not-be-named”.

‘The most obnoxious blowhard in America’

05:00 , Gustaf Kilander

Mr Christie slammed Mr Ramaswamy after he went after Ms Haley on foreign policy on Wednesday.

“This will be the fourth debate that you would be voted in the first 20 minutes as the most obnoxious blowhard in America,” the ex-New Jersey governor told the entrepreneur. “We’re now 25 minutes into this debate and he has assaulted Nikki Haley’s basic intelligence, not her positions, her basic intelligence ... she wouldn’t be able to find something on a map that his three-year-old could find.”

“Nikki and I disagree on some issues, but I’ll tell you this. I’ve known her for 12 years, which is longer than he’s even started to vote in the Republican primary,” he added.

Mr Ramaswamy shot back that Mr Christie’s “foreign policy experience was closing a bridge from New Jersey to New York”.