During the third GOP presidential primary debate on Wednesday in Miami, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley was virtually front and center as she traded barbs in a debate centered mostly on policy.
Haley got into a heated argument with businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and former governor Chris Christie of New Jersey joined the three. Former President Donald Trump did not participate in the debate at all for the third time in a row, but he is still unquestionably leading the field.
Haley’s position in the polls indicated that she was one podium away from the center of the debate stage, but on Wednesday night, she was the center of attention.
Since the debates began in August, the South Carolinian and former Trump U.N. ambassador has seen a steady increase in her poll numbers, according to 538, sometimes even matching or surpassing DeSantis as the second-most popular GOP candidate.
At times, the other contenders confronted her directly. Although Ramaswamy chastised Haley for her prior support of US military action abroad, their most acerbic exchange transpired during a TikTok segment in which Ramaswamy accused Haley’s daughter of using the app.
“Leave my daughter out of your voice,” Haley shot back. As Ramaswamy played down the boos he faced, she added: “You’re just scum.”
Additionally, she deflected a jibe from Ramaswamy, who likened her to ex-VP Dick Cheney “in three-inch heels.”
“I’d first like to say they’re five-inch heels, and I don’t wear them unless you can run in them. The second thing that I will say is, I wear heels, they’re not for a fashion statement, they’re for ammunition,” she said, drawing applause.
During their tenure as governor of their respective states, Haley and DeSantis publicly criticized one another for what they saw as China’s perceived weakness.
China loomed as the biggest foreign foe, and they accused each other of opening their states to Chinese investments.
“Yes, I brought a fiberglass company 10 years ago to South Carolina. But Ron, you are the chair of your economic development agency that as of last week said Florida is the ideal place for Chinese businesses,” Haley said after coming under fire.
“I abolished that agency that she’s talking about. We abolished it and of course we banned buying the website, banned them from purchasing in Florida,” DeSantis responded.