Until Wednesday night, it had been six long weeks since Republican presidential hopefuls debated each other. In addition to a former vice president and four others who never made the debate stage dropping out, the world has changed since late September. Foreign policy properly received significant attention, as candidates explained their views on Hamas’ Nazi-esque atrocities toward innocent civilians and other issues around the globe. In the best debate yet, let’s review the performances and where candidates stand:


Nikki Haley

Even before international affairs returned to the forefront during October, Haley made the strongest moves of any candidate in the last two months to arguably cement herself as the top challenger to Donald Trump. Why? Haley is appealing to GOP voters turned off by Trump, whereas Ron DeSantis seems disinclined to build that reliable Reaganite coalition. She remained firm, understanding the complex issues and exposing the left for embracing antisemitism and one of her opponents’ naivete. Her nuanced answer on abortion was also dynamite.

Ron DeSantis 

Nearly six months into his campaign, Team DeSantis still does not understand their candidate cannot extract Trump’s ardent supporters. Despite his military experience, the Florida governor remains wobbly and ambiguous on foreign policy. Although an Israel supporter, he inexplicably maintains quasi-isolationist policies (“bring the Ukraine war to an end”? How, sir?) popular only with the party’s ignorant fringe.

Appearing in his home state, DeSantis started off with doom and gloom. He had some decent moments, but refusing to accept any entitlement reforms, for example, is unserious.

Tim Scott

Scott is a happy warrior, yet unfortunately for him, we are in a populist era where optimism is shunned and grievance is desired. Scott probably had his best debate, with strong stances on several moral matters, but in a country enthralled with performative outrage, substance falls prey to emotional lunacy. Which leads us to…


Vivek Ramaswamy

From his opening conspiratorial rant to a despicable attack on Haley’s daughter, he was more unhinged than usual and clearly is running for cable news host-in-chief. The more voters get to know him, the less they like the hedge fund millionaire. Ramaswamy took the biggest tumble in polling over the past month, as he is exposed for being a vacuous tool. Evidenced again in the third debate during his Tucker Carlson monologues, Ramaswamy’s worst area is foreign policy, where his policies would kill millions; he has caveats to good versus evil battles and espouses bizarre conspiracies to disgraced media personalities. The neo-isolationist could drop out but must stay in the race as a stooge for Russia’s evil alliances and a proxy for the continuously absent Trump, who somehow held a simultaneous rally. His plan seemingly was to address every issue within the same breath while using mindless cliches like “deep state” and “neocon,” and yes, deeming brave Jewish leaders “Nazis.”


Chris Christie

He may have no chance, but my viewing partners concurred that the New Jerseyan was very good on serious matters and America’s role in the world. He didn’t have any weak moments. The former governor is still leaving it all in New Hampshire, but Christie is probably looking at a fourth or fifth-place finish there and dropping out shortly after. Should he stay in for nearly 90 more days?







MAGA types like Ramaswamy hate that NBC hosted the debate, but the moderation in Miami was far better than Fox News. Hugh Hewitt did great as a conservative voice, and Lester Holt and Kristen Welker played it straight.


Media outlets want to portray the race over and coronate Trump as GOP nominee yet again. The left does it because they want Trump in the news since he’s the weakest Republican option against Joe Biden; the right does it because it means ratings, and they think, rightly or wrongly, that a 77-year-old under several criminal indictments still runs the party. We shall see. Policies and electability should matter, but do emotions and conspiracy supersede the reality of winning and losing? Trump is unfocused and can’t cross 50% support in early states. The unique Iowa Caucuses, where he lost in 2016, are just two months away.


Ari J. Kaufman is the managing editor of the Tri-Cities Business Journal. He’s written for several newspapers, is the author of three books, is a frequent guest on radio programs, and contributes to Israel National News and here at The Lid.