Five Republican presidential candidates – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Vivek Ramaswamy – qualified for the third GOP primary debate hosted by NBC in Miami on Wednesday.
With former president and current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump once again sitting the debate out, DeSantis and Haley entered as the leaders of the pack and were both largely considered to have had the best nights. Unlike the previous two debates, Megyn said she enjoyed watching this one because it was more substantive and the moderators had more control. But that didn’t mean there still weren’t some dustups on stage.
On Thursday’s show, Megyn was joined by The Federalist’s Emily Jashinsky and The Fifth Column’s Michael Moynihan to discuss how Haley and Ramaswamy produced some of the spiciest moments of the debate with their sparring that turned personal.
Haley vs. Ramaswamy
While all the candidates got in the occasional zinger, Megyn said there was something different about the way Haley and Ramaswamy interacted. “DeSantis and Haley went back and forth, but the fights of the night that were memorable were Vivek and Nikki because it got personal,” she said. “They clearly don’t like each other.”
The two have gone toe-to-toe in previous debates. Last time out, the former South Carolina governor quipped “every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber” after one of Ramaswamy’s answers, and it appears there may be some bad blood. After the debate, the NBC cameras kept rolling and showed the pair avoiding shaking hands with each other. But plenty happened behind the lecterns as well.
‘Dick Chaney in Heels’
At one point, Ramaswamy was answering a question about the Israel-Hamas war when he took a shot at Haley and DeSantis’ foreign policy.
Ramaswamy: So what I would tell Bibi is that Israel has the right and the responsibility to defend itself. I would tell him to smoke those terrorists on his southern border. And then I’ll tell him, as president of the United States, I’ll be smoking the terrorists on our southern border… Corrupt politicians in both parties spent trillions, killed millions, made billions for themselves in places like Iraq and Afghanistan… You have the likes of Nikki Haley, who stepped down from her time at the U.N. bankrupt or in debt was her family, then she becomes a military contractor, she joins the board of Boeing and otherwise, and is now a multimillionaire. So, I think that that’s wrong when Republicans do it or Democrats do it. That’s the choice we face. Do you want a leader from a different generation who is going to put this country first or do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels? Because we’ve got two of them on stage tonight.
Haley: First off, I’d like to say they are five-inch heels and I don’t wear them unless you can run in them. The second thing I will say is: I wear heels, they’re not for a fashion statement but for ammunition.November 8, 2023
The last line of Ramaswamy’s answer was a clear reference to the chatter about DeSantis putting lifts in his cowboy boots. “Even though we here at The Megyn Kelly Show have talked about whether DeSantis has lifts in those boots, we are a podcast and allowed to do stupid things,” Megyn said. “On the presidential debate stage, that seemed lowbrow to me.”
Megyn said the attack on Haley “seemed substantive and a fair place to go,” and she didn’t fully understand the former U.N. ambassador’s retort. “’Ammunition?’ It didn’t quite land for me. It didn’t make sense,” she said. “Like, maybe they’re a weapon? I’ve seen Single White Female.”
But perhaps the most memorable moment of the night was when Ramaswamy brought up Haley’s adult daughter, which didn’t sit well with her.
Ramaswamy: I want to laugh at why Nikki Haley didn’t answer your question which is about looking at families in the eye. In the last debate, she made fun of me for actually 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 before preaching to anyone else –
Haley: Leave my daughter out of your voice.
Ramaswamy: The next generation of Americans are using it and that’s actually the point. You have her supporters crapping her up. That’s fine. Here’s the truth, the easiest –
Haley: You’re just scum.November 8, 2023
In a debate that Moynihan felt was filled with canned responses, that was one of the more authentic exchanges of the night. “That’s an honest answer,” he said. “That’s something not scripted – out of the side of her mouth ‘you’re just scum.’”
Beyond that, he felt like Ramaswamy’s line of attack was flawed. “The point that he was making is so monumentally stupid,” he explained. “Your daughter can be attacked – Vivek said after the debate – because she’s an adult. It’s like, yes, she can also decide whether or not to use TikTok and whether she thinks it’s Chinese spyware.”
He noted the way the families of candidates have been treated in campaigns has shifted and not for the better. ”It used to be: Don’t attack Sasha and Malia [Obama]; don’t attack Chelsea Clinton; they’re too young,” he recalled. “It’s not even about that anymore. Now it’s like, sins of the father, sins of the family… It was just a very stupid blow.”
While Haley and Ramaswamy may have stolen the show, Megyn, Jashinsky, and Moynihan agreed all of the candidates on stage were chasing soundbites and viral moments in a way that didn’t translate. “You can tell that [Ramaswamy] is a TikTok guy, that it’s of his generation, because it’s all soundbites,” Moynihan said.
And he wasn’t alone. “In his defense, he wasn’t the only one,” Megyn noted. Haley missed the mark with her “ammunition” comment and even seemed to flub her response to Ramaswamy about her daughter. Megyn also wasn’t impressed with DeSantis’ “stone cold dead” remark about drug smugglers. “All of these Harvard and Yale guys are trying to be John Wayne up there,” she joked.
Ultimately, Jashinsky believes America is getting the politicians it deserves. “The more the Republican Party insists on backing people like Nikki Haley and supporting the ideology of people like Nikki Haley, the more Viveks we’re going to get,” she concluded. “This is why it’s not the politics we need, but it is the politics we deserve.”
You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Jashinsky and Moynihan by tuning in to episode 666 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.