GOP debate turns chaotic as candidates turn on Ramaswamy over China, voting and border

Rivals come prepared with barbs for upstart GOP candidate

John Bowden
Washington DC
Thursday 28 September 2023 09:23 BST
Chaos breaks out as candidates jump on Ramaswamy

The knives were out for Vivek Ramaswamy at the second Republican presidential debate.

Wednesday evening’s contest descended into chaos at one point, with the businessman at the centre of a barrage of attacks coming from all directions. His rivals, apparently responding to his fiery and attention-grabbing performance at the first contest, were ready with prepared attacks. Mr Ramaswamy never saw it coming.

In just a few minutes, the Republican hopeful endured deep cuts from at least three candidates. It was begun by Tim Scott, who looked at the cameras as his rivals spoke at each other and quipped: “We should have a debate between Vivek and Vivek” — a reference to his rival’s reversals on the issue of doing business with China and his past criticism of Donald Trump.

There was Mike Pence, waiting for a quiet moment as always, before inserting a jab aimed at Mr Ramaswamy, derisively asserting that Mr Ramaswamy began voting in presidential elections in 2018, around the time his businesses pulled out of China.

Minutes later, Nikki Haley took it even lower. Addressing her competitor, she insisted that she felt “dumber” every time Mr Ramaswamy addressed the crowd.

But it wasn’t over for Mr Ramaswamy just yet. Moments later, the Fox Business moderators turned to Ukraine, an issue that Mr Ramaswamy has used to draw himself apart from his rivals.

That was just another opening for his foes, who accused him of cosying up to China and not understanding basic facts about the US-Ukraine military assistance arrangement. Just about everyone was against Mr Ramaswamy here, insisting that allowing a Russian victory in Ukraine would lead to bloodshed on Nato soil.

The seven candidates spent two hours on live television hurling insults and shouting at each other — often through switched-off microphones — at a presidential debate that was most notable for the continued absence of the candidate who currently leads the field, former president Donald Trump.

The seven-person field, consisting of Mr Ramaswamy, Mr Scott, Ms Haley, Mr Pence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, took to the stage for the showdown hosted by Fox Business Network and Univision, roughly a month after the first primary debate in Milwaukee.

Mr Trump, who most polling shows to have a commanding lead over the entire field, skipped the televised session to deliver prepared remarks to a group of non-union auto workers in Michigan.

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