And then there were four. Wednesday evening in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, only four GOP challengers to former President Donald Trump remain on the debate stage, as each of them desperately seeks a moment to change the trajectory of the race, while, for now, it seems all but certain that Trump is mere weeks away from wiping them all out.
At the University of Alabama, at 8:00 p.m. ET, the remaining four Trump challengers–former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis–will debate in a second tier of the race that increasingly looks like a race for second place among them.
Haley has overtaken DeSantis in a clear and convincing way for second place for now across the board, and Christie keeps lighting them all up saying none of them is running against Trump but instead that they’re running against each other.
If there was any indication of just how sad these remaining Trump challengers are, it’s that Trump clearly no longers considers any of them a threat. When the previous three debates happened earlier this cycle, Trump held clearly-calculated counter-programming events–an interview with Tucker Carlson, an event with striking auto-workers in Michigan, and a rally in south Florida, respectively. But this time Trump has no counter-programming planned.
What’s more, this debate is a lot more difficult to find for viewers nationally on the television dial. It’s buried on newcomer network NewsNation–which is not even available in many cable plans, and most hotel rooms across America do not carry it–with moderators including former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, NewsNation’s Elizabeth Vargas, and the Washington Free Beacon’s Eliana Johnson. Some viewers may tune in on Rumble, which is the conservative YouTube alternative with which the Republican National Committee (RNC) has partnered for streaming rights for the debates. But again, the whole thing has a very “online” feel to it–much like these also-ran candidates. So, assuming that yet again nobody has a breakout moment from this debate that changes the trajectory of things in this race–they’re running out of time anyway, with the Iowa caucuses coming up on Jan. 15 and the New Hampshire primaries eight days later–the pressure will really intensify on the RNC to just call it and end these things. Heck, Democrats are literally canceling their primary elections in major states like Florida to just hand all the delegates to Democrat President Joe Biden. Why shouldn’t the GOP be doing at least something to help unite the party behind the guy who’s almost certain to win the nomination?
Anyways, as with other debates, follow along here on Breitbart News for live news and analysis from the stage.
UPDATE 10:00 p.m. ET:
The debate has come to a close, and while this debate was certainly spicy at times it does not seem any of these people will change the trajectory of the race with their performances this evening.
UPDATE 9:57 p.m. ET:
Closing statements are ongoing now, and the last debate of 2023 is coming to an end.
UPDATE 9:53 p.m. ET:
Now the debate is back–apparently the technical issues were just on Rumble not on television for viewers watching on NewsNation–and Johnson is bringing it in for a close with last questions for candidates before closing statements.
UPDATE 9:48 p.m. ET:
About 15 minutes before the scheduled end of the debate, the Rumble feed–which many viewers of this debate are relying on to see it since News Nation is not in many homes at the moment–totally crapped out. It’s been a shaky feed online streaming most of the evening, but the technical difficulties here are a major problem for the Republican Party and probably yet another reason why the RNC should not schedule any more debates until after the results of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries are in.
UPDATE 9:44 P.M. ET:
Christie again takes the fight to Trump, unlike the others on stage, arguing that he disagrees with Haley that Trump succeeded on trade with regard to China. Again, whether or not Christie is correct or incorrect in any of these attacks he’s leveled this evening against Trump, he does in fact seem to be the only one up there on stage consistently bringing the conversation back to Trump–who’s dozens of points ahead of all of them in the polls.
UPDATE 9:33 p.m. ET:
Now the conversation instead of China shifts to the various university presidents who testified this week on Capitol Hill, and Haley rips into them.
UPDATE 9:28 p.m. ET:
Ramaswamy’s fight with Haley continues with a moment of him holding up a sign saying “Nikki=Corrupt.” Then the conversation shifts to questions via video from Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton on the deep state and election integrity, which were excellent questions–but the conversation as the debate enters its third commercial break seems to be dragging on at this point. It does not seem as though this will change the trajectory of the race at all. Kelly notes that the conversation will shift to China upon the return from commercial.
UPDATE 9:09 p.m. ET:
Christie seems to have gotten under DeSantis’s skin here by arguing that DeSantis dodged another question and that his answer would get thrown out in court. DeSantis keeps firing back at Christie arguing that he is not afraid to answer the question–but DeSantis still keeps not answering it.
UPDATE 9:05 p.m. ET:
Christie is now directly attacking Trump, using leftist and establishment media narratives that Trump is somehow plotting “retribution” and being a “dictator” if he is elected president again. He also attacks everyone else on stage for in his view defending Trump.
UPDATE 9:00 p.m. ET:
The conversation after the second break is focused on terrorism and antisemitism.
UPDATE 8:47 p.m. ET:
Another fight between DeSantis and Haley, this time about Chinese companies operating in their respective states. DeSantis consistently and repeatedly lied during his comments–in the last debate both Ramaswamy and Haley hit him for Chinese airplane companies operating in Florida. He had done events at those companies as recently as this year, and after the last debate Breitbart News offered to DeSantis the opportunity to sit for an interview in front of that exact same Chinese plane manufacturer in Orlando and DeSantis, though his communications staff, refused to do the interview.
UPDATE 8:42 p.m. ET:
Next up is Haley who is arguing she would deport every illegal migrant who has entered the United States during the Biden administration, then she talks about supporting an amnesty for other illegal migrants based on whether they are paying taxes.
UPDATE 8:38 p.m. ET:
The debate is back from a lengthy commercial break now, and now the moderators are shifting the conversation to the border and immigration. The first question goes to DeSantis.
UPDATE 8:33 p.m. ET:
The debate enters its first commercial break as things get particularly heated, and now when it comes back Vargas says the topic will shift to the U.S. border with Mexico.
UPDATE 8:32 p.m. ET:
Ramaswamy fired back at Christie essentially calling him fat by telling him to leave the stage and “enjoy a nice meal” then drop out of the primary.
UPDATE 8:30 p.m. ET:
Christie is mixing it up with Ramaswamy now. “I’m not done yet,” Christie says as Ramaswamy tries talking over him, then Christie calls him the “most obnoxious blowhard in America.”
UPDATE 8:22 p.m. ET:
Christie is coming at DeSantis now for not answering the question, which was would he send in U.S. military forces in to secure the release of American hostages in Gaza. Christie says he would in fact send in the military to get them out.
UPDATE 8:20 p.m. ET:
Now, the conversation shifts to Israel, and Vargas asks DeSantis what he would do to secure the release of the American hostages that Hamas is still holding. DeSantis argues the Biden administration is trying to weaken the Israeli military effort.
UPDATE 8:18 p.m. ET:
Kelly finally asks Christie a question–and is similarly vicious to him as she was to the others. Christie in his answer tries to reframe the conversation as a race against Trump not between the four candidates on stage.
UPDATE 8:16 p.m. ET:
They’re finally getting to Christie but the others on stage are ripping Haley and the audience seems to be siding with Haley. That doesn’t mean much in terms of actual votes–see the 2016 GOP primary debate audiences booing Trump for instance–but it does show party insiders who get tickets to things like this have coalesced behind her and not DeSantis or others up there.
Now they still haven’t gotten to Christie other than mentioning his name.
UPDATE 8:11 p.m. ET:
In the third question, Kelly is coming straight at Ramaswamy–questioning his “authenticity,” arguing that him criticizing some and praising others does not add up. In response, Ramaswamy offers some mild praise for DeSantis–who he had previously ripped for wearing high heels–and for North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum who dropped out of the race this week. Then Ramaswamy goes in hard at Haley. This is already turning into a slugfest between the other candidates and not Trump–and unlikely to change the trajectory of things.
UPDATE 8:07 p.m. ET:
Now, Kelly is coming after Haley asking her for the second question about whether she’s too close with the donors. In her answer, Haley hits DeSantis right away–and she argues that the donors do not control her.
UPDATE 8:04 p.m. ET:
Megyn Kelly opens the questions up, and notes that Trump has a massive lead. She turns to DeSantis and lays out how poorly he has run his presidential campaign and asks him point blank whether he should drop out. DeSantis is defiant in his answer.
UPDATE 8:03 p.m. ET:
As the moderators introduce themselves, Vargas notes that it is “make or break time” for everyone on stage.
UPDATE 8:00 p.m. ET:
The debate is beginning now, with an opening package that notes Alabama’s place in supporting tradition but also the importance of football.
UPDATE 7:48 p.m. ET:
One of the biggest developments that occurred earlier on Wednesday before this debate is that Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) formally endorsed Trump for president. Her endorsement means the entire GOP congressional delegation from Alabama–both U.S. Senators and all the Republican U.S. House members–have endorsed Trump for president. Obviously, that is a huge sign of momentum for Trump even though he is not on the stage there in Tuscaloosa.