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Republican presidential candidates discuss future plans

The U.S. is less than a year away from the 2024 presidential election. Current nominees in the race are Trump, Haley, Ramaswamy, Desantis, Christie. Photo used with permission from J. Amill Santiago via Unsplash.

The fourth Republican debate took place on Dec. 6, at the Moody Music Hall in the University of Alabama. 

Elizabeth Vargas, Megyn Kelly and Eliana Johnson moderated the debate. Vargas of News Nation hosts her news talk show, Elizabeth Vargas Reports; Megyn Kelly currently hosts a talk show and podcast, The Megyn Kelly Show; and Johnson is the Editor-in-Chief of Washington Free Beacon, a conservative political publication. 

Five candidates qualified, but only 4 attended as former President Donald Trump remained absent from the debate. The attendees included Florida Governor DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, biotechnology entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. 

Several other candidates already announced the suspension of their presidential campaigns. On Nov. 13, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott went on X, formerly known as Twitter, to share that he was suspending his presidential campaign. Later on Dec. 4, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum announced on Instagram that he was suspending his presidential campaign. 

“Why you?” 

Candidates were asked why they should be the Republican Party nominee, and the strengths that made them the best candidate. 

DeSantis voiced his opinion on the polls. “So we have a great idea in America that the voters actually make the decision, not pundits or pollsters. I’m sick of hearing these polls because I remember those polls in November of 2022 they said there was going to be a big red wave”, DeSantis said.

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman criticized Trump and donated $250,000 to the pro-Haley Stand for America super PAC. Super PAC Americans for Prosperity endorsed Haley, believing that she has the best chance to beat Biden. 

Haley stated that she isn’t being influenced by her donors. “We will take support from anybody, we can take support from. But I have been a conservative fighter all my life. I was a Tea Party Candidate when I became Governor. We opposed every single corporate bail-out bill we could,” Haley said.

Ramaswamy disagreed with Haley’s statements. “Nikki, you were bankrupt when you left the U.N after you left you became a military contractor, you actually started joining service on the board of Boeing. Who’s back you scratched for a very long time and then gave foreign multinational speeches like Hillary Clinton is. Now you are a multimillionaire that math doesn’t add up. It adds up to the fact that you are corrupt,” he said.

Christie spoke on how his views on Trump and how they have changed since 2020. “We are now 17 minutes into this debate [and the other candidates have yet to mention Trump]. We have had these three acting as if the race is between the four of us. The fifth guy, [Trump], doesn’t have the guts to show up and stand here. He’s the one who is way ahead in the polls,” Christie said.

Southern border

In 2023, approximately 150 people die everyday from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to the CDC.

DeSantis defended his proposed plan to strengthen protection on the southern border. “The drug cartels are invading our country and are killing our citizens by the tens of thousands every year. We had a situation in Florida where an 18-month-old baby was crawling on the floor of an Airbnb rental. There was fentanyl residue on the carpet and the baby died,” DeSantis said.

From October of 2021- October of 2023 there have been approximately 7 million encounters at the Southwest border. Photo used with permission from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Haley believed that the solution to the issue lay in stopping immigrant benefits. “Biden just gave them temporary protective status to 500,000 Venezuelans, that is half a million social security cards, half a million drivers license and I know from my time at the United Nations that the first thing that they are going to do is pick up the phone and say we came over, come on over,” Haley said.

Ramaswamy then highlighted rising rates of mental health issues among Americas. “If we deal with the demand side problem. That we also have in this country. I mean the easy part is talking about how we are going to use our military to secure the border. I will and I believe that everybody else wants to do the same thing,” he said. “But the harder part is dealing with the crisis of purpose and meaning. The mental health epidemic is raging across this country like wildfire.”


Haley raised concerns regarding the high cost of houses across the United States. “Right now the average homeowner in America is 49-years-old. You’ve got young people everywhere that used to be part of the American dream and now it is out of reach. First you have to look at what the Fed, [central banking system], did a terrible job when they let all of that money go through. You saw the treasury bonds rates go up, that affected mortgage rates, automobile rates and insurance rates,” she said. 

A historical comparison of where inflation was during certain points in history and where it is now. With details regarding why the inflation was where it was at certain key points. Photo used with permission from the White House.

DeSantis voiced his thoughts on the distribution of student loans, stating that he believed it should be based on the course of study. “I don’t support having a truck driver having to pay a student loan for someone who got a degree in gender studies. That is wrong. We should not have tax payers do that. These student loans are going to be backed by the universities. Because they need to have an incentive to produce gainful employment for people,” DeSantis said. 

Ramaswamy discussed the role that the bureaucracy played in running the country. “The people who we elect to run the government are not the ones even actually running the government. It is the bureaucrats in those 3 letter agencies that are writing regulations that Congress never gave them the authority to write … We will shut down government agencies that should not exist. We will rescind any regulation that fails the test of West Virginia v. EPA, that if Congress did not delegate that to an administrative agency then it’s unconstitutional,” he said.

Donald Trump

Candidate absentee Trump refused to attend any debates in the race so far, instead preferring to focus on self-held events. 

Haley disagreed with Trump’s immigration ban based on religion instead focusing on region. “We have to look at which countries are a threat to us. You look at what came across the southern border. What worries me the most are those that came from Iran, Yemen and Lebanon, those areas where they say death to America … A president has one job to keep Americans safe, that’s what we have to do is make sure that we have good national security,” she said.

Christie spoke of Trump’s plan of revenge against those who crossed him. “[Trump] started off his campaign by saying, I am your retribution. Eight years ago he said I am your voice. This is an angry bitter man. Who now wants to be back as president because he wants to exact retribution on anyone who has disagreed with him,”  he said. At the first debate, candidates were asked to raise their hand if they would support Donald Trump even if he was convicted of federal felonies. “All of my colleagues on stage tonight raised their hands. Federal felonies, by the way, which involved our election process, federal felonies that involve the most sensitive of governmental secrets, federal felonies where he instructed others to commit crimes,” Christie said.

Ramaswamy criticized other participants for being two faced on their opinion of Trump, changing their beliefs when it was convenient to them. “All three of them have been licking Donald Trump’s boots for years for money and endorsements. Ron DeSantis you have been a great governor but you never would have been one without actually begging Donald Trump for that endorsement. Same thing for Nikki Haley and Chris Christie as a lobbyist begging them for COVID money for his special interest group in New Jersey, prepping him for the debates last time around,” Ramaswamy said. 

Transgender legislation 

Some 1.6% of U.S. adults are transgender or nonbinary – that is, their gender differs from the sex they were assigned at birth

Christie believes that parents have a right to make decisions that they believe are the best for their children in healthcare. “Because Republicans believe in less government, not more. Less involvement with the government, not more involvement in people’s lives. I trust parents and we are out there saying that we should empower parents in education, we should empower parents to make more decisions where their kids go to school. I agree we should empower parents to be teaching values that they believe in in their homes, without the government telling them what their values should be.” Christie said. 

DeSantis emphasized his role in executing a pan on transitional surgeries in Florida. “You do not have as a parent the right to abuse your kids. This is cutting off their genitals. This is mutilating these minors … I signed legislation in Florida banning the mutilation of minors because it is wrong. We can not allow this to happen in our country.”

Ramaswamy highlighted the idea to put an age requirement on transitioning. “Transgenderism is a mental health disorder. We don’t let you smoke a cigarette before the age of 18, we don’t let you have an addictive drink of alcohol before the age of 21. Haley agreed with Ramaswamy’s idea of putting an age requirement on transitioning. “If you have to be 18 to get a tattoo you should have to be 18 to have anything done to change your gender,” she said.

Closing statements 

Christie, continuing, his anti-Trump rhetoric, asked voters to think to election time next year. “You all will be heading to the polls to vote. That’s something that Donald Trump will be unable to do because he will be convicted of felonies before then and his right to vote will be taken away,” he said. 

Ramaswamy used his closing statement to address a topic that wasn’t covered in the debate. “The climate change agenda that is shackling this country, like a set of handcuffs. I said it at the first debate and I stand by it. The climate change agenda is a hoax,” Ramaswamy said.

Haley highlighted issues that affect Americans and how the country can’t fight fire with fire. “Our country is in chaos. We see it on the southern border, we see it in our cities, we see it on our college campuses, we feel it with our economy and inflation … You can’t defeat Democrat chaos with Republican chaos. That’s what Donald Trump gives us,” Haley said. 

DeSantis ended by bringing to light that America is in decline and the country needs him to fix it. “We are in jeopardy of being the first generation of Americans to leave to our kids and grandkids an America less prosperous and less free then the one we inherited. I refuse to sit idly by and let that happen, but we have to have people who are willing to fight the people that are doing this to us,” DeSantis said. 

CNN plans to host a GOP primary debate on Jan. 10 at Drake University, five days before the Iowa caucuses. CNN will also be holding a second debate scheduled for Jan. 21 at St. Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire, two days before the state’s primary. 

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About the Contributor
Leo McDunn, Staff Writer
Leo McDunn is a junior at Green Hope High School and was born in Saint Louis Missouri. Leo is in Boy Scout of America Troup 209, he is working on his eagle, a rank in the organization.  He currently lives in Cary, NC with his two siblings and parents. In his free time, he enjoys playing ultimate frisbee and is on Green Hope High School Ultimate Frisbee team. His favorite cuisine is Indian food and the dish that piqued his interest is Chicken Tikka Masala. Leo also likes to spend time on Instagram but also likes to watch movies, one of which is The Princess Bride. In the future, Leo wishes to major in political science and become either a campaign manager or a political figure.
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