5 Republican candidates spar at debate, while Trump holds a rally nearby. Follow live updates

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Five candidates sparred with one another at a whittled-down third Republican presidential debate in Miami while front-runner Donald Trump held his own event a short drive away.

What to know

What to watch during the Republican debate

Trump looks to upstage the debate with a rally targeting South Florida’s Cuban community

GOP presidential candidates unified on Israel but divided on China

Ramaswamy hints at conspiracy theory when talking about Biden

Ramaswamy’s final comments onstage at the third presidential debate hinted at far-flung conspiracy theories believed by some far-right Americans, including the idea that Joe Biden isn’t the real president.

“End this farce that Joe Biden is going to be your nominee. We know he’s not even the president of the United States,” he said.

He went on to suggest that Biden is a placeholder for Democrats to put someone else into the candidacy, mentioning former first lady Michelle Obama and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Fact check on Ohio's new abortion amendment

Ramaswamy’s claim that Ohio’s new abortion amendment “effectively codifies abortion all the way up until the moment of birth without parental consent” needs context.

The language Ohioans voted for in Tuesday’s election doesn’t change Ohio’s existing parental notification and consent law, which requires minors to have parental permission — or a judicial exception in extreme cases — to get an abortion.

To be overturned, that law would have to be challenged in court and struck down by the state Supreme Court, whose conservative majority would likely vote to protect it.

Medical experts also dispute the idea of abortions “until the moment of birth” that Ramaswamy and other candidates on stage are using. Terminations later in pregnancy — which are exceedingly rare — involve medication that induces birth early, which is different from a surgical abortion.

Republicans play up threat of terrorists crossing US border

Ron DeSantis said that “terrorists have come in through our southern border” and that he is going to “shut it down.” Vivek Ramaswamy vowed to “smoke the terrorists” out of the U.S. southern border.

What terrorists?

Alex Nowrasteh of the pro-immigration Cato Institute documented nine foreign-born terrorists who entered the United States illegally from 1975 through last year. Three entered Mexico in 1984 when they were 5 years old or younger and were convicted of plotting to attack Fort Dix, New Jersey, in 2007. The other six entered through Canada.

That’s not to say it can’t happen. The Homeland Security Department said in a national “threat assessment” this year that people with “potential terrorism connections” continue to attempt to enter the country.

Republicans have seized on arrests of people who crossed illegally from Mexico and are on the Terrorist Screening Dataset, known as the “terrorist watchlist,” a compilation of names that have aroused suspicion for any number of reasons. It doesn’t mean they are terrorists. The number jumped to 172 in the government’s budget year ended Sept. 30 from 98 the previous year, 15 the year before that and 11 in the previous four years combined.

Build a wall on the US-Canadian border, Ramaswamy says

There has been a lot of talk about how GOP candidates would handle their concerns related to security at the U.S.-Mexico border, but Vivek Ramaswamy wanted to shift perspective northward.

The biotech entrepreneur said in Wednesday night’s debate that he’s the only Republican hopeful “who has actually visited the northern border” with Canada, where he said enough fentanyl was captured last year “to kill 3 million Americans.”

“Don’t just build the wall,” Ramaswamy said of the U.S.-Mexico border wall proposal. “Build both walls.“

Ramaswamy, who visited the northern border last month, also advocating using U.S. troops to “seal the Swiss cheese” tunnels he said are underneath the northern border.

Mexico will pay for the border wall, Part 2

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis began the debate demanding that Donald Trump come to the stage and explain why he didn’t wall off the entire U.S. southern border and have Mexico pay for it as he’d promised to do as president.

As the night wound down, DeSantis went a step farther, making the unlikely claim that he could keep the promise Trump broke.

DeSantis vowed to build a border wall and have Mexico pay for it, a comment that went unchallenged by moderators or other candidates.

Whether DeSantis will get the chance remains to be seen given the commanding early lead Trump has built in the Republican 2024 presidential primary, despite skipping all three debates. But erecting a wall the length of the nearly 2,000-mile border is nearly unthinkable –and the idea that Mexico would fit the bill strains credulity even further.

GOP candidates support raising retirement age

Republican presidential candidates came out swinging with benefit cuts to Social Security in order to preserve the retirement income program. Some also said they could achieve stronger economic growth, though past pledges along those lines have fallen flat.

According to a trustee’s report, Social Security will be unable to pay full benefits starting in 2033 without changes that could include less benefits or higher taxes.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he would raise the retirement age for younger workers, including his 30 year-old son. Christie also tried to shame billionaire Warren Buffet for collecting Social Security, even though the payments would reflect the payroll taxes that he paid over his career.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley would also raise the retirement age and limit payments to wealthy individuals.

Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy suggested he could save the program through drastic spending cuts that would shutter federal agencies and possibly lay off the majority of government workers.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said he would achieve faster growth, even though former President Donald Trump pledged he could also boost gross domestic product gains and failed to do so. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he knows a few Social Security recipients in his home state, which has a reputation for catering to retirees, and he, too, would get faster economic growth.


Corrects year that Social Security will stop being able to pay full benefits to 2033, not 2023.


Haley says DeSantis is a ‘liberal’ on the environment

Haley is accusing Ron DeSantis of being a “liberal” when it comes to the environment.

"You were. You always have been. Just own it if that’s the case,” she said at Wednesday night's debate.

Haley pointed to the Florida governor’s opposition to fracking off the state's coast. He “has opposed fracking, he has opposed drilling,” she said.

DeSantis, however, said: “We are absolutely going to frack” — just not in certain parts of his state.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to drill in the Florida Everglades,” he said.

‘Leave my daughter out of your voice’

A question about whether the candidates would ban TikTok for its China ties turned into a searing personal exchange between Haley and Ramaswamy.

Ramaswamy interrupted Haley to accuse her of inconsistency on opposing the app for the inroads it allegedly gives to Chinese interests.

“Her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time,” Ramaswamy said.

“You might want to take care your family first,” he told Haley, a rebuke that drew loud boos from the debate audience.

“Leave my daughter out of your voice!” Haley answered.

GOP candidates come up short in solutions to inflation

GOP presidential candidates laid out their plans for tackling inflation — and came up somewhat shortchanged to address immediate cost pressures.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said he would increase oil and natural gas production, though domestic oil output recently hit an all-time high under President Joe Biden, according to the Energy Information Administration. The key challenge is that oil is a global commodity and often responds to market issues all over the world, such that cuts in production by Saudi Arabia and other countries tied to OPEC can push up prices.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said workers are removing items from their grocery carts when at the register because prices are too high. He said he would get rid of all of Biden’s economic policies and “rein in the Federal Reserve,” the U.S. central bank tasked with keeping inflation near a target annual rate of 2%. The Fed has rapidly hiked its benchmark rate in order to tame inflation, causing the pace of consumer price increases to slow to 3.7% from a peak of 9.1% in 2021.

Vivek Ramaswamy said he would just “increase the supply of everything.” That includes oil, housing, nuclear energy and coal, even though it can take years for companies to ramp up supplies in a way that can immediately respond to price pressures.

Trump claims no one is watching debate across town

At his Hialeah rally, Trump made passing reference to the debate across town, saying no one was watching it.

Later, he compared his rally to the debate: “I’m standing in front of tens of thousands of people right now and it’s on television. That’s a lot harder to do than a debate.”

The stadium where he was speaking has a capacity of about 5,200 people and was not full Wednesday.

Haley and DeSantis feud spills over on to debate stage

Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis have been feuding in speeches and ads over China, and now they’ve done it on the debate stage.

The former United Nations ambassador said as president she would “end all normal trade relations with China until they stop murdering Americans from fentanyl — something Ron has yet to say that he’s going to do.”

The Florida governor clapped back that Haley as South Carolina's governor had “welcomed” the Chinese into South Carolina, referencing land and economic development deals during her six-year tenure.

Haley had her finger up hoping to respond but was not called on.

Haley again goes after Ramaswamy

Nikki Haley is picking up during Wednesday night's debate where she left off during the last debate – going out of her way to slam Vivek Ramaswamy.

After Ramaswamy finished a lengthy answer about his opposition to U.S. support for Ukraine in its war with Russia, Haley turned and indicated his podium.

“I am telling you, Putin and President Xi are salivating at the thought that someone like that could become president,” Haley said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

That recalled the second debate when Haley repeatedly ripped Ramaswamy, including declaring, “Every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber.”

GOP division over war in Ukraine is on display

The Republican Party’s internal division over Russia's war in Ukraine is on display at the debate.

Scott said he’s supportive of helping Ukraine. “Every day we get closer to the degradation of the Russian military, and that’s good news.” However, he said there should be more transparency and accountability for how Ukraine has used American assistance.

Haley also said “we should give them the equipment, the ammunition to win.” She portrayed support for Ukraine as a way to deter aggression worldwide.

Christie drew a connection between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the run up to World War II. “This is not a choice. This is the price we pay for being the leaders of the free world.”

Ramaswamy suggested areas of Ukraine occupied by Russia should remain in Moscow’s hands. He said this is not “some kind of battle between good versus evil.”

DeSantis expressed skepticism about some of the funding that the U.S. has sent Ukraine. He added that “we need to bring this war to an end” to focus on border security instead.

Haley and Scott find common ground on Iran

They haven’t faced off directly, but the two presidential candidates from South Carolina are finding common ground when it comes to Iran, who Hamas has said helped plan and orchestrate its surprise attack on Israel last month.

Asked during Wednesday night’s debate if she supported U.S. military action against Iran, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said that “We need to go and take out their infrastructure,” adding: "Iran responds to strikes.”

Asked what he would say to assure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott seemed to agree, noting, “You have to cut off the head of the snake. And the head of the snake is Iran.”

'Do you want Dick Cheney in 3-inch heels'?'

Tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy is lashing out at former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley for her more hawkish foreign policy stance.

“Do you want a leader from a different generation who’s going to put this country first? Or do you want Dick Cheney in 3-inch heels? In which case, we’ve got two of ‘em on stage tonight,” Ramaswamy said, invoking the former vice president.

It was a dig at Haley — the only woman on stage — as well as DeSantis, who has been accused of wearing lifts in his boots.

Haley punched back, correcting Ramaswamy. “They’re 5-inch heels,” she said, adding: “I don’t wear ‘em unless I can run in ’em.”

Earlier, Ramaswamy also lashed out at Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel as he expressed dismay at Republican losses in Tuesday’s elections.

“We’ve become a party of losers,” he said, saying he would welcome her resignation.

GOP candidates voice support for Israel at debate

The Republican presidential candidates at Wednesday night's debate competed against one another to sound the toughest on Hamas.

Asked what they would tell Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he wages war on the militant group after its Oct. 7 attack, DeSantis replied, “’Finish the job once and for all with these butchers, Hamas.”

“’Finish them. Finish them,”’ said Haley, who cited what she said was her daily work on behalf of ally Israel as Trump’s U.N. ambassador.

Haley broadened the blame to Hamas supporter Iran, and to China and Russia for its economic ties with Iran, calling the three countries an “unholy alliance.”

“Smoke those terrorists on his southern border,’’ Ramaswamy relayed as his advice to the Israeli leader.

Trump takes stage shortly after debate begins nearby

Donald Trump took the stage at his rally about 20 minutes after the Republican presidential debate kicked off nearby.

Trump's rally was set to begin at 7 p.m., but he didn't end up speaking until around 8:20 p.m. Wednesday. Already by that time, his rivals at the debate had been asked to weigh in on why they were a stronger 2024 candidate than Trump.

Trump was introduced by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his former White House press secretary. She praised his courage, touted his record and called him “my former boss, my friend, and everybody’s favorite president.”

Sanders says Trump brought patriotism back to the country and would do so again.

“We need him to finish what he started eight years ago," she said.

Moderator asks audience to behave themselves

Moderator Lester Holt reminded audience members twice in the first 10 minutes to behave themselves, perhaps an early sign that NBC will run a tighter ship than Fox did in previous GOP debates, which at times got out of hand.

“Audience, let’s not do this,” Holt said as the crowd cheered.

NBC also set different rules for the debate than Fox, allowing candidates 90 seconds to answer questions instead of 60 seconds. Follow-ups are at the discretion of moderators and are not given to candidates just because their name was mentioned.

“Continued interruptions may result in loss of additional questions,” Holt said while introducing the rules.

Scott sticks to talking points instead of going after Trump

Sen. Tim Scott needs a breakout moment in the third Republican debate, but he has so far has been sticking to his talking points.

The South Carolina Republican on Wednesday night was given an opportunity by moderator Lester Holt of NBC News to contrast his candidacy with that of GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

But instead of drawing bright lines, Scott talked about his optimism for America’s future and his own personal narrative, which he says portrays the kind of leadership that American needs.

Candidates asked why they are stronger than Trump

The third Republican presidential debate opened with a sharp question about why the candidates on stage were stronger than Donald Trump, who has built a commanding early lead in the party’s 2024 primary.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis slammed the former president for skipping all the debates, saying he should be there answering tough questions like why he didn’t keep the promise to wall off the entirety of the U.S.-Mexico border and have Mexico pay for it.

DeSantis also said Trump promised the country it’d win enough to get tired of it, adding, “I’m sick of Republicans losing,” pointing to Democrats’ big night in many key races across the country in Tuesday’s election.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, called him “the right president for the right time,” but said he wasn’t now, chiding him for running up federal deficits.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy was even more blunt, calling Republicans “a party of losers.”

GOP candidates bash own party for 2023 election results

Candidates used their party’s poor performance in Tuesday’s elections as a punching bag at the start of the debate.

“We’ve become a party of losers,” Ramaswamy said.

“I’m sick of Republicans losing,” DeSantis said.

For each of them, it was a chance to pitch himself as the antidote to what ails Republicans. Ramaswamy promised to take on the establishment, while DeSantis bragged about his electoral record in Florida.

It’s time for the Miami matchup

The third Republican presidential candidate debate is officially underway in Miami.

It’s expected that candidates will be asked about a variety of topics, including abortion and the ongoing war in Israel following Hamas’ surprise attack last month.

Five candidates met the Republican National Committee’s qualifications to participate in the third matchup: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

As he has with previous debates, former President Donald Trump is skipping Wednesday night’s matchup, instead holding his own event a short drive away.

Wednesday night’s debate comes just one day after the 2023 off-year elections, in which Democrats notched a number of wins the party hopes might portend possible successes in other contests next year.

Thousands gather for Trump rally ahead of debate

Thousands have gathered to show support for former President Donald Trump at a rally in the Miami suburb of Hialeah.

Trump was joined by mixed martial arts fighter Jorge Masvidal and comedian Roseanne Barr, who led the crowd in a profane chant and called him a “MAGA-dor,” playing off his “Make America Great Again” slogan.

People showed up in red, white and blue clothes with MAGA hats and Trump 2024 flags. Some also carried the flag of Israel.

Dozens of supporters lined up earlier to get a copy of Trump’s photobook “Our Journey Together” signed by the former president’s son Donald Trump Jr.

Some speakers addressed the crowd in Spanish and English.

“I go to all Trump events,” said Paul Rodriguez, a Cuban American voter who wore a T-shirt bearing Trump's mug shot. “I hope common sense returns to America. Donald Trump speaks for us, while Democrats do it for corporations and other countries.”

Absent yet again, Trump gets some good debate night news

He won’t be onstage with his GOP rivals, but Donald Trump is getting some good debate night news.

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to bar Trump from the 2024 primary ballot under a constitutional provision that forbids those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office.

The ruling is the first to come in a series of lawsuits filed by liberal groups seeking to use Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to block the GOP front-runner’s candidacy by citing his role in the violent Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Democrats troll 2024 GOP hopefuls in lead-up to debate

Democrats are once again trolling the Republican candidates ahead of their debate.

The Democratic National Committee placed bilingual ads on billboards across South Florida and hired a mobile billboard truck to, in their words “call out their extreme MAGA agendas.”

The truck will be driving around the Republican National Committee debate venue, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, on Wednesday night.

The Spanish- and English-language ads cast former President Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner, as an extremist and a liar.

Trump will be holding his own event in nearby Hialeah.

Scott hosting Jewish high school and college students at debate

The ongoing Israel-Hamas war is sure to feature in discussion during Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate, and Sen. Tim Scott is bringing with him some students who might be particularly interested.

Scott’s campaign says the South Carolina Republican is hosting more than 20 Jewish students from the University of South Carolina, University of Miami and a local South Florida high school at the debate.

The Republican Jewish Coalition is one of the partners for Miami’s debate. Scott was among the GOP contenders who addressed the coalition’s leadership summit in Las Vegas.

Scott, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are taking part in the Wednesday night event.