Ramaswamy, Haley grab most memorable lines from the third Republican presidential debate

Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations and 2024 Republican presidential candidate, right, and Vivek Ramaswamy, chairman and co-founder of Strive Asset Management and 2024 Republican presidential candidate, during the Republican primary presidential debate hosted by Fox News in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Al Drago

Republican presidential candidates again traded pointed barbs onstage during the party’s third primary debate on Wednesday night.

As in the two previous debates, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy lashed out not only against his opponents but also the Republican Party leadership, Ukraine and even the debate’s moderators. And while most candidates shied away from criticizing former president Donald Trump – who holds a commanding lead in polling and did not participate in the debate – former New Jersey governor Chris Christie went after him, arguing that someone who faces as many indictments as the former president should not be the Republican nominee for president.

Here are some of the most memorable lines from the third Republican debate:

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1. ‘I wear heels not for a fashion statement. They’re for ammunition.’

That was what former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley said in response to entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who made a dig at her and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – and their choice of footwear.

“Do you want a leader from a different generation [who] is going to put this country first, or do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels onstage?” Ramaswamy said. “In which case, we’ve got two of them onstage tonight.”

Ramaswamy’s comment was a clear reference not only to Haley – the only woman on the stage, and the only candidate clearly wearing high heels – but also to DeSantis, who faces allegations that he wears boots with added insoles to make him appear taller.

Haley wasted no time in snapping back at Ramaswamy: “I wear heels not for a fashion statement. They’re for ammunition.”

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2. ‘Spending the next year and a half of their life, focusing on keeping themselves out of jail and courtrooms’

Christie – the resident Trump critic among the Republicans running for president in 2024 – did not hold back on Wednesday when speaking about Trump and his legal troubles.

“I’ll say this about Donald Trump: Anybody who’s going to be spending the next year and a half of their life focusing on keeping themselves out of jail and courtrooms cannot lead this party or this country,” Christie said.

Christie has sought to establish distance between him and Trump – despite once being a close ally of the former president.

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3. ‘Leave my daughter out of your voice. . . . You’re just scum.’

Haley told Ramaswamy to keep her daughter’s name “out of your voice” during a contentious moment on the debate stage.

Ramaswamy was asked how he could ban TikTok – the popular Chinese-owned social media app that has drawn scrutiny across the U.S. government – if he is an active user himself.

Before explaining that the social media platform is important to reach younger generations of Americans, Ramaswamy replied to a moderator’s question that he wanted to “laugh at why Nikki Haley didn’t answer your question, which is about looking at families in the eye.”

“In the last debate she made fun of me for actually joining TikTok while her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time,” he said. “So you might want to take care of your family first.”

As the crowd loudly booed Ramaswamy, an angry Haley told Ramaswamy to leave her daughter, who is 25, out of it.

“Leave my daughter out of your voice,” she said. “You’re just scum.”

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4. ‘This should be Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan and Elon Musk’

Ramaswamy also attacked the debate moderators – NBC News anchors Lester Holt and Kristen Welker, and radio host Hugh Hewitt. Ramaswamy appeared to suggest that it was disappointing that the Republican Party would work with NBC News, which is not a conservative network.

“Think about who’s moderating this debate,” Ramaswamy said. “This should be Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan and Elon Musk – we’d have 10 times the viewership asking questions that GOP primary voters actually care about bringing more people into our party.”

Ramaswamy has built a campaign around framing himself as the next generation’s Trump and has long blasted the “mainstream media.” He has aligned himself with some of the most right-wing networks, but has appeared as a guest across networks.

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5. ‘[Ukraine] has celebrated a Nazi in its ranks, a comedian in cargo pants – a man called Zelensky’

Ramaswamy did not stop at blasting the moderators. The entrepreneur also lashed out against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – who is leading his nation in its war against Russia – by calling him a Nazi.

“[Ukraine] has celebrated a Nazi in its ranks, a comedian in cargo pants – a man called Zelensky,” Ramaswamy said. Zelensky himself is Jewish, and this is a frequent Russian conspiracy theory used to attack him.

For months, Ramaswamy has criticized U.S. support for the Ukrainian war effort and opposed proposals to send more funds to the war-torn nation.

“Ukraine is not a paragon of Democracy,” Ramaswamy said during the debate.

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6. ‘Putin and President Xi are salivating at the thought that someone like that could become president’

In response to Ramaswamy’s multiple attacks on Ukraine, Haley said the leaders of Russia and China are “salivating” at the thought of someone like him winning the presidency. Earlier in the debate, Ramaswamy had called Haley a “war hawk” on Ukraine.

“I am telling you: [Vladimir] Putin and President Xi [Jinping] are salivating at the thought that someone like that could become president,” Haley said of Ramaswamy.

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7. ‘We’ve become a party of losers’

Ramaswamy also took aim at the Republican Party broadly and its chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, saying there’s a “cancer in the Republican establishment.”

“We’ve become a party of losers,” he said. “I mean, since Ronna McDaniel took over as chairwoman of the RNC in 2017, we have lost 2018, 2020, 2022.”

Ramaswamy pointed to the major losses Republicans suffered in Tuesday’s elections – including a Democratic governor winning reelection in ruby-red Kentucky and Democrats winning control of both chambers of the Virginia legislature in a blow to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin (and to the buzz around his presidential ambitions).

“We got trounced last night in 2023,” Ramaswamy said. “And I think that we have to have accountability in our party.”



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