Candidates make strong statements on foreign policy while Trump retains massive lead

In the shadow of President Trump’s fifty-six-point polling lead, five challengers for the Republican presidential nomination took to the debate stage on Wednesday, November 8 in Miami. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and United States Senator Tim Scott sparred over issues ranging from foreign policy to border security.

The debate was marked by an aggressive performance from Ramaswamy, who attempted to follow through on his promise to “be unhinged” on stage. The field’s youngest candidate played offense from the outset, slamming Haley as “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels” and predicting that she and Ron DeSantis would repeat “the mistakes of the neocon establishment, [which sent] thousands of our sons and daughters to die.” 

Haley criticized Ramaswamy at the second debate for his campaigning on TikTok; this time around, Ramaswamy turned the criticism back on the former South Carolina governor, criticizing her daughter’s presence on the platform. “She made fun of me for joining TikTok while her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time, so you might want to take care of your family first,” Ramaswamy said. Haley retorted: “Leave my daughter out of your voice” before calling the entrepreneur “scum.”

Many students were favorable to Ramaswamy’s performance. “Vivek was electric. We all saw Haley walk all over him in the last two debates, but this time he really came back with a vengeance. He exposed Haley’s desire for ‘forever wars’ and provided a vision that placed American interests first,” sophomore Eric Gordy told the Rover. Junior Catalina Scheider Galiñanes offered a different perspective: “[Ramaswamy’s] mentioning of Nikki Haley’s daughter, who is twenty-five, married, and has a career in nursing was unnecessary. But Haley’s supposed ‘clapback’ was embarrassing. … I struggle to take Nikki Haley seriously.”

Despite their feuding, the candidates found common ground in their support for Israel. With war raging in Gaza, moderator Lester Holt asked the candidates about the course of action that they would recommend to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Ron DeSantis called for the Israeli forces to “finish the job once and for all,” while Nikki Haley said that the IDF needed to “finish” Hamas. Haley continued by emphasizing the need to provide Israel with “whatever they need, whenever they need it.”

Junior Luca Fanucchi largely agreed with the candidates’ foreign policy positions. “It was very heartening to see DeSantis strongly condemn Hamas and reaffirm that if he were president, the United States would continue supporting Israel,” he explained. Fanucchi was especially pleased with DeSantis’ performance, saying, “By emphasizing his own actions to protect Jewish Floridians … who were stuck near the conflict, I believe Governor DeSantis was able to effectively emphasize the difference between him and other GOP presidential hopefuls: action over words.” 

Some students, however, had concerns about the candidates’ interventionism surrounding the Middle East, Ukraine, and Taiwan. Junior Nathan Desautels said, “We are told it would be too costly, too complicated, and too risky for the House GOP to actually make a stand for border security; but when a foreign country with foreign interests is jeopardized, this ‘complexity’ suddenly vanishes. Within a matter of days, America’s coffers are emptied and the Navy is swiftly deployed to foreign waters.”

Despite the discussions about high-stakes issues, other students were underwhelmed by the on-stage roster. “The debate was nothing more than a potential audition for Secretary of Transportation,” argued sophomore Shri Thakur. “None of these candidates have anything interesting to say, and none of them are ever going to come close to overcoming Donald Trump’s fifty-point lead nationally. The RNC should cancel any future debates and unite around Donald Trump, who is going to be the party’s nominee and the 47th president.”

Others concurred with Thakur’s sentiments, finding the debate to be hollow in the absence of the leader of the 2024 field. Scheider Galiñanes found that their “discussions were mostly unmemorable. I am still searching for more substance from the candidates.” According to recent data, DeSantis polls at only fourteen percent, while Haley and Ramaswamy clock in at eight and five percent, respectively. Tim Scott, who had been polling in the low single digits nationally, announced the suspension of his campaign on the Sunday night following the debate. “As the field narrows, will Trump enter the national debate stage? I hope so,” said Scheider Galiñanes.

Aedan Whalen is a sophomore in the Program of Liberal Studies and also studies political science. When he’s not attending a reverent Novus Ordo Mass, you can reach out to him at

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore. Wikimedia Commons.

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