SC’s Haley shoots back at DeSantis, Ramaswamy in third GOP presidential debate

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Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, whose campaign has been riding a wave of upward momentum in recent weeks, sought to further take down Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate.

But the debate also turned into a battle between Haley and Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.

Only Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, of South Carolina, qualified for the debate stage.

Former President Donald Trump, who is the clear front-runner for the GOP nomination, chose not to participate in the debate and held a rally in the Miami-area instead.

Haley, who served as ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump administration, boasted her foreign policy experience during the debate.

Wednesday’s debate came about a month after Hamas’ attack on Israel, which has gone to war in the Gaza strip.

Ramaswamy took on Haley for leaving the United Nations and earning millions from military contracts. Ramaswamy called Haley “Dick Cheney in 3-inch heels.”

Haley shot back saying she wears 5-inch heels.

“I wear heels. They’re not for a fashion statement; they’re for ammunition,” Haley said.

The most tense moment came when Ramaswamy pointed out Haley’s daughter previously used TikTok. “Leave my daughter out of your voice,” Haley said to Ramaswamy. “You’re just scum.”

She also said the U.S. needs to stand up to Iran.

“You punch them once and you punch them hard and they will back off,” Haley said, standing up to Iran and pointing to the country’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah.

Leading up to the debate, the Haley and DeSantis camps sparred over who is truly tougher on China and whether the United States should take in refugees from Gaza.

DeSantis hit Haley on allowing a Chinese company to open a business near Fort Jackson.

Haley fired back, saying DeSantis chaired a board that encouraged China investment in Florida and pointed how the agency website removed references to China and said Chinese manufacturers are operating in the Sunshine State.

South Carolina’s other presidential candidate, Scott, who has been trying to be more aggressive, stayed out of the fights among Haley, DeSantis and Ramaswamy. Instead his aggressive tone was when it came to the ongoing wars in Israel and Ukraine and tough language on those who support Hamas in the U.S. — especially on college campuses.

“Every single university president in America, federal funding is a privilege not a right, number one,” Scott said. “Every student we have come to our country on a visa to college campus, your visa is a privilege, not a right. Number three, any campus that allows for antisemitism and hate to allow students to encourage terrorism, mass murder ... and genocide, you should lose your federal funding to date, period. To all the students on bases who are encouraging Jewish genocide, I would deport you.”

Although Scott was the last candidate to qualify for the debate, he tried to gain footing and throw punches at the four others on stage. His campaign earlier this week said Haley has abandoned conservative credentials while saying she is perceived as a moderate. Scott campaign manager Jennifer DeCasper said DeSantis can’t articulate optimism while pointing to his dropping poll numbers.

Since the first and second debates, Haley has been moving up in the polls following her strong performances. She is the clear second-place Republican candidate in South Carolina and moved into second place in several recent polls out of New Hampshire.

She also is tied for second place with DeSantis in Iowa, according to a Des Moines Register poll.

However, DeSantis is in second place in most national polls of GOP primary voters.

Haley’s argument for the nomination has included that she would perform the best against President Joe Biden in a general election compared the other Republicans in the field.

However, Trump remains the clear front-runner for the nomination.