The biggest jabs and most memorable lines from the Republican debate

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley took lots of incoming attacks Wednesday night, but she had plenty of comebacks at the ready. MUST CREDIT: Joshua Lott/The Washington Post

Republican presidential candidates traded rhetorical jabs throughout the fourth primary debate Wednesday evening.

During the lively – and at times unruly – debate in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy frequently sought to attack former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley – who is now leading the pack onstage but has not made much progress to chip away at former president Donald Trump’s large lead in the polls.

Trump, who skipped the debate, was also an omnipresent figure throughout the night. But former New Jersey governor Chris Christie repeatedly lashed out at his competitors onstage for being too timid to mention or criticize the former president.

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

– – –

‘No, it’s not worth my time to respond to him.’

When Ramaswamy was asked about his harsher attacks on Haley, the entrepreneur defended his tactics and dug in further, dismissing Haley’s argument that he has “a woman problem.” The pair of candidates have frequently sparred onstage during previous debates, at times getting personal.

“Nikki, I don’t have a woman problem. You have a corruption problem and I think that that’s what people need to know. Nikki is corrupt,” he said. “This is a woman who will send your kids to die so she can buy a bigger house.”

He continued, saying, “I reject the use of identity politics in this party. It has been a cancer coming from the left and I’m sick and tired of the double standards . . . Having two X chromosomes does not immunize you from criticism.”

He then held up his legal notebook, which displayed “NIKKI = CORRUPT” across the page.

When asked if she would like to respond, Haley said, “No, it’s not worth my time to respond to him.”

– – –

Florida’s ‘”Don’t Say Gay” bill didn’t go far enough.’

Early on in Wednesday night’s debate, Haley and DeSantis sparred over their respective stances on LGBTQ+ discussions in schools and gender-affirming care to minors. DeSantis, in his opening remarks, specifically criticized Haley, claiming she “caves” to pressure from Democrats on the issue.

Responding to DeSantis, Haley said DeSantis “continues to lie” about her record.

“I actually said his ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill didn’t go far enough, because it only talked about gender until the third grade. And I said it shouldn’t be done at all . . . that’s for parents to talk about. It shouldn’t be talked about in schools,” she continued.

– – –

‘You’ll all be heading to the polls to vote and that’s something that Donald Trump will not be able to do.’

In his closing argument, Christie sought to warn fellow Republicans about the future of the presidency if Trump, the party’s front-runner, prevails.

He told the audience to paint a picture of what things could look like on Election Day in 2024.

“You’ll all be heading to the polls to vote and that’s something that Donald Trump will not be able to do, because he will be convicted of felonies before then and his right to vote will be taken away,” he said, prompting boos.

He added, “You can boo about it all you like and continue to deny reality. But if we deny reality as a party, we’re going to have four more years of Joe Biden.”

Trump faces 91 counts across four criminal cases.

– – –

‘I love all the attention, fellas’

Throughout the debate, Haley was the clear target of attacks over her record, her political donors and her past work on Boeing’s board. And those attacks came as Haley has, in many ways, surpassed DeSantis as the new alternative to Trump in the GOP primary.

“I love all the attention, fellas,” she said amid the criticism from some of the candidates onstage.

Haley took flak for taking donations from “Wall Street” donors.

“In terms of these donors that are supporting me, they’re just jealous. They wish that they were supporting them,” she said, at one point emphasizing that she’ll take support “from anybody we can take support from.”

Responding specifically to a jab from DeSantis, she said, “He’s mad because those Wall Street donors used to support him and now they support me.” Last month, the powerful political network led by conservative billionaire Charles Koch endorsed Haley. They had initially planned to make an endorsement by the end of the summer, and the presumptive candidate was DeSantis.

– – –

‘I’ve got these three guys who are all seeming to compete with . . . Voldemort, “he who shall not be named.”‘

Christie – whose criticism of Trump is central to his 2024 campaign – said the candidates onstage were all “acting as if the race is between the four of us.” Trump, the fifth candidate, “doesn’t have the guts to show up,” he said.

“And yet, I’ve got these three guys who are all seeming to compete with you know, Voldemort, ‘he who shall not be named.’ They don’t want to talk about it,” Christie continued, referring to the villain of Harry Potter.

The former New Jersey governor suggested that the candidates might be too timid to speak out against Trump “because they have future aspirations.”

“I’m in this race because the truth needs to be spoken. He is unfit,” he continued.

– – –

‘Hamas wants nothing less than a second Holocaust’

When asked how far he would go to secure the release of Americans being held hostage by Hamas, including through the use of American military members, DeSantis declined to answer directly but criticized the Biden administration’s approach to the conflict.

“Hamas wants nothing less than a second Holocaust. They would wipe . . . every single Jew off the map, they would destroy the State of Israel, if they could. Joe Biden will say they support Israel and then they do nothing but try to kneecap them every step of the way,” he said.

The Florida governor also said Israel has “a right to eliminate Hamas and win a total and complete victory so that they never have to deal with this again.”

– – –

‘You would be voted . . . the most obnoxious blowhard in America’

After Ramaswamy spent much of his time early in the debate interrupting and insulting his rivals, particularly Haley, Christie came to Haley’s defense.

Ramaswamy belittled Haley’s time in the Trump administration as a “cup-of-coffee stint at the U.N.” and mocked her inability to name three provinces in eastern Ukraine where he claimed she wanted to send U.S. troops.

“Foreign policy experience is not the same as foreign policy wisdom,” Ramaswamy said. “It takes an outsider to see this through. Look at the blank expression. She doesn’t know the names of the provinces.”

Christie told Ramaswamy to stop insulting Haley’s intelligence.

“This is the fourth debate, the fourth debate that you would be voted in the first 20 minutes as the most obnoxious blowhard in America,” Christie said.

– – –

‘He’s afraid to answer’

Much like his earlier debate comments about not saying Trump’s name, Christie pointedly attacked DeSantis for being afraid to answer directly whether Trump is fit to serve another term in the Oval Office.

“He’s afraid to answer. Either you’re afraid or you’re not listening,” Christie said.

He continued, saying, “This is the problem with my three colleagues. They’re afraid to offend. Let me tell you something, if you’re afraid to offend Donald Trump then what are you going to do when you sit across from [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping], you sit across from the Ayatollah, you sit across from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin? You have to be willing to offend with the truth.”

DeSantis responded by saying Trump’s age suggests he would be unfit.

“It’s not about offending. It’s about pointing out: Do you want to elect someone who will be older than Biden when he went in in 2021? I don’t think he’s as bad as Biden was at all, but I do think over a four-year period, it is not a job for someone who is pushing 80,” DeSantis said.

– – –

‘We’re going to put my children’s health and my decisions in their hands?’

Christie tried to make the case for limited government when it comes to gender-affirming care for minors, arguing that parents, not politicians, should be making those decisions for their children.

“You look at these jokers down in Congress, it takes them three weeks to pick a speaker. And up until two days ago, they couldn’t promote somebody in the military of the United States . . . who earned their new rank. And we’re going to put my children’s health and my decisions in their hands? For them to make those decisions? For Joe Biden to make those decisions for me and my wife?” Christie said.

He continued, “I get to make the decisions about my children, not anybody else. And every parent out there who is watching tonight: you start to turn over just a little bit of this authority, the authority they’re going to take from you next you’re not going to like.”



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here