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What to Know Ahead of Third Republican Presidential Debate 

The stage was set the night before for the Nov. 8, 2023, Republican presidential candidates debate in Miami. Five hopefuls will participate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, Fla.
The stage was set the night before for the Nov. 8, 2023, Republican presidential candidates debate in Miami. Five hopefuls will participate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, Fla.

Former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican Party's 2024 presidential nomination, will be a no-show at the third candidates debate Wednesday night in Florida, opting instead to host an event nearby. But five other conservative presidential hopefuls will be looking for breakthroughs.

Wednesday’s debate will be broadcast live from the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County from 8 to 10 p.m. Eastern time on NBC News and Rumble, a livestreaming platform.

Since the first Republican debate in Milwaukee more than two months ago, former Vice President Mike Pence has left the race and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota have been swept aside, having raised too little money to qualify for Wednesday night’s forum.

Those still in contention — and willing to show up to the debate — are Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, biotech businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Here’s what to know about the candidates’ positions on key issues that are likely to come up.

Foreign policy

There are two competing approaches to foreign policy to look for tonight: hawkish neoconservativism from Haley and isolationism — Trump’s brand of diplomacy that Ramaswamy and DeSantis seem to be mimicking.

Haley sees military aid to Israel and Ukraine as crucial to preserving Western interests abroad. Scott and Christie agree that helping Israel and Ukraine in their war efforts is crucial.

Ramaswamy, on the other hand, wants out of what he calls “no-win wars” and recently said the U.S.’s job is not “to be the global police.” To Ramaswamy, successful foreign policy means cutting off many U.S. allies from support.

DeSantis has similarly argued that helping Ukraine’s counteroffensive is not a priority, echoing Trump’s controversial "America first" stance.

Super political action committees for Haley and DeSantis have repeatedly aired campaign ads accusing each other of being too easy on China. Those ads leveled claims that fact-checkers have called into doubt, including that Haley allowed a Chinese corporation to “get dangerously close” to a U.S. Army base and another that “DeSantis voted to fast-track” Obama-era trade deals with China.

Expect Haley and DeSantis to defend themselves and spar over their views on China and more.


Progressives made inroads in state-level elections Tuesday in winning back abortion rights, which the U.S. Supreme Court returned to the states' purview when it struck down Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Some states have greatly restricted abortion rights since then.

The Republican candidates differ in their views on abortion.

Haley, DeSantis and Scott would sign a nationwide ban on abortions after 15 weeks. They haven’t said whether they would allow exceptions in instances of rape or incest or when a pregnancy could be fatal.

Ramaswamy and Christie, while both personally against abortions, have said that they would not support a federal ban, citing the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which some legal scholars say gives decision-making authority over abortion bans to the states.

Ramaswamy has advocated for six-week abortion bans at the state level but said he wouldn’t use executive authority to impose them.

Both Ramaswamy and Christie support exceptions in instances of rape or incest or when a pregnancy could be fatal.

As governor of Florida, DeSantis helped outlaw mifepristone, a hormone-blocking drug that is used in medication abortions. Haley has said the legality of mifepristone should be decided by elected officials at the state level.

Ramaswamy, Christie and Scott haven’t elaborated their positions on mifepristone.


Ramaswamy, himself the child of immigrants, has perhaps the harshest policies on immigration. He has said that he would deport every undocumented immigrant and deploy the military at the southern U.S. border to halt any more mass crossings.

Haley has said she would make it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to find jobs and that immigration officials should carry out deportations.

DeSantis has said he would deport undocumented immigrants, particularly those who overstay their visas or are found guilty of crimes. In Florida, he clamped down on undocumented immigration.

Scott has supported bringing back Title 42, which forces out migrants without any legal proceedings, but hasn’t said whether he would deport undocumented immigrants.

Christie has supported mass deportations, and as governor of New Jersey he rejected a national program that helped immigrants find new beginnings in his state.

Haley, Scott and Christie are against breaking up families.

Ramaswamy, DeSantis and Haley are against birthright citizenship.


New polling from The New York Times and Siena College shows that Trump is beating President Joe Biden in five of six battleground states. Analysts say that should worry Trump's party rivals, who all trail him by some distance.

But not all are so sure of Trump’s campaign.

Christie has made a name for himself among the Republican candidates as Trump’s harshest critic, claiming that Trump’s legal battles will make it harder to beat Biden as the primaries approach.

Haley has likewise called Trump’s trials “a distraction” from the larger goal of getting a Republican in the White House.

Haley blasted Trump for being too cozy with authoritarian leaders, in a recent meeting with the Republican Jewish Coalition, which is a co-sponsor of tonight’s debate. Trump has a record of praising dictators such as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

DeSantis also has said that Trump “views everything from the lens of him,” referring to how Trump’s legal dramas may have clouded his message.

Scott recently said that Trump isn’t electable in 2024. “I don’t think he can win,” Scott said in late October. “You have to be able to win in Georgia. I don’t think he can win in Georgia.”

Of all the contenders, Ramaswamy has been the least critical of Trump.

As Haley and DeSantis vie for second place, expect them to make their cases for why Republican voters should want them over Trump.


DeSantis hasn’t said whether he thinks human activity is the main cause of climate change. Haley, Christie and Scott, however, have. Ramaswamy has said that human activity causing climate change is probable but has never expressed certainty.

Ramaswamy and Scott have publicly doubted that climate change is making natural disasters more lethal, with Ramaswamy having said at the first Republican debate that “the climate change agenda is a hoax.”

All the candidates who will take the stage at tonight’s debate have said that the market is better suited than the government to handle climate change.

DeSantis, Haley, Ramaswamy and Scott are opposed to rebate programs for drivers of clean-energy vehicles. Christie hasn’t given his position on tax credits yet.

If the impacts of climate change come up, expect Ramaswamy to be the most vocal denier as in previous debates.


All the candidates who will appear at tonight’s debate are against restricting access to firearms for those who might pose threats to themselves or others. They also oppose expanding background checks, except for Ramaswamy, who hasn’t yet made his opinions on that known.

Of all the topics that might come up tonight, what to do — or not to do — about gun violence will likely be among the least contentious for the candidates, who broadly see eye to eye on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.