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Recap of Fourth Republican Primary Debate (by Stances and Quotes)

By · Jan 10, 2024 · 11 min read

Recap of Fourth Republican Primary Debate (by Stances and Quotes)

On December 6th, the fourth Republican primary debate was held in Tuscaloosa, at the University of Alabama. Of the six candidates who qualified for the third Republican debate, only five remained. Yet again, Donald Trump declined the invitation. The other four candidates in attendance were:

  • Ron DeSantis (the current governor of Florida)
  • Vivek Ramaswamy (the founder of Roivant Sciences)
  • Nikkey Haley (the former governor of South Carolina)
  • Chris Christie (the former governor of New Jersey)

Here are the current percentages of sampled Republican voters who said they would vote for each of the five candidates mentioned above:


During the debate, candidates discussed rising inflation and the economy at large, which 52% of polled Republicans said was the most important issue for them, followed by immigration (41%), foreign policy (30%), etc.

The Candidates

As the number of candidates decreases, cooperation between the candidates dwindles. In fact, the first twenty minutes of the fourth Republican primary debate consist almost entirely of personal and political attacks amongst the group as each candidate attempts to discredit their opponents, both present and not, and boost their own popularity.

CandidatesPolitician Quotes/Stances
DeSantis“[Nikki Haley] caves anytime the left comes after her, anytime the media comes after her. I did a bill in Florida to stop the gender mutilation of minors. It’s child abuse and it’s wrong. She opposes that bill.”


“I think we need to have somebody younger [as president]. I think when you get up to 80, I don’t think it’s a job for that… Some of these policies he ran on in ’16, I was cheering him on then, but he didn’t deliver it.” (on Trump)

Haley“First I’ll tell you just to respond to Ron, he continues to lie about my record. I actually said his ‘don’t say gay’ bill didn’t go far enough because it only talked about gender until the third grade and I said it shouldn’t be done at all.” (in response to DeSantis)


“What I said was that social media companies need to show us their algorithms… I never said the government should go and require anyone’s name.” (in response to Ramaswamy)

Ramaswamy“Nikki, you were bankrupt when you left the UN. After you left the UN, you became a military contractor, you actually started joining service on the board of Boeing who’s back you scratched for a very long time and then gave foreign multinational speeches like Hillary Clinton is and now you’re a multimillionaire. That math does not add up. It adds up to the fact that you are corrupt.”


“The only person more fascist than the Biden regime now is Nikki Haley, who thinks the government should identify every one of those individuals with an ID that is not freedom. That is fascism.”


“I don’t question [Haley’s] faith, but I question her authenticity and I think that’s deeper here.” (in reference to Haley’s conversion to Christianity in 2010)

Christie“[Donald Trump] doesn’t have the guts to show up and stand here… He is unfit. This is a guy who just said this past week that he wants to use the Department of Justice to go after his enemies when he gets in there.”

Foreign Policy

With the war in Gaza, the war in Ukraine, and international tensions at an all-time high, it’s no surprise that the next topic discussed was foreign policy.

At the time of this debate, around eight American hostages were taken and being kept in the Gaza tunnels, a series of tunnels under the Gaza Strip estimated to be hundreds of miles in length, used by Hamas to transport and store hostages, store weapons and other supplies, provide a secure location to hide out, and more. On the flip side, however, Israel was reported to have surrounded the home of Hamas’ leader Yahya Sinwar.

As for Ukraine, the war continues to rage on.

The following discussions cover the candidates’ opinions on what to do considering the situations at hand on the international front.

CandidatesPolitician Quotes/Stances
DeSantis“[This] administration is trying to hobble Israel from being able to defend itself. They have a right to eliminate Hamas and win a total and complete victory so that they never have to deal with this again… You should not try to direct their war effort, we should work together with them so that they can bring Hamas to heel… We do have troops there that Biden is leaving basically as sitting ducks and you have the Iranians that are attacking these troops and he’s responding with basically pinpricks… We also need to look at what’s the underlying problem here, Iran. Biden is doing nothing to bring Iran to account. You got to turn the screws on them. Don’t let them have any oil revenue. The money they get, they send to Hamas.”
Haley“Make sure that we win in Ukraine.”


While Haley did not remark upon the situation in Gaza, she has been known to be pro-Israel and does not support the drawing of a cease-fire in Gaza.


In an interview with Linsey Davis, Haley states that “The best way to save people in Gaza is to eliminate Hamas… If you do a cease-fire, people die, because we’ve done this before and what Hamas did before. They killed Israeli soldiers and they took more Israeli soldiers hostage. That’s what would happen.”

Ramaswamy“I think Israel has an absolute right to defend itself to the fullest, without the US, the UN or the EU or anybody else second-guessing their decisions… you smoke the terrorists on your southern border, you go ahead and we’re rooting for you. We’re going to smoke the terrorists on our own southern border.”


“Nikki Haley and Joe Biden… still support this, what I believe is pointless war in Ukraine.”


“These people want to send your sons and daughters to go die in Ukraine. They’ve been arguing for it for a year. $200 billion of our taxpayer money sent over.”

Christie“If they had a plan which showed me that we could get them out safely, you’re damn right I’d send the American Army in there to get our people home and get them home now, and I’ll answer that question directly.”

In summation, most of the candidates support aiding Israel in its fight against Hamas, criticizing both the government for not doing enough to help, and the UN for calling for a ceasefire. In regards to the war in Ukraine, however, their opinions differ. Haley and Christie are largely in favor of continuing to help Ukraine while Ramaswamy believes the war is pointless and that too much money has been spent.

Undocumented Immigration

Illegal immigration at the southern border and how to prevent it has long been a hot topic among Republicans, especially as it relates to the smuggling of fentanyl. As of 2021, 90% of opioid-related deaths were caused by fentanyl, leaving many to search for possible solutions both to this epidemic and to undocumented immigration.

It must be noted, however, that the majority of fentanyl seized is not seized from people crossing the border illegally but rather by American citizens from sales by drug cartels across the border. There is no correlation between the number of migrants in the US and fentanyl-related seizures.

CandidatesPolitician Quotes/Stances
DeSantis“The drug cartels are invading our country and they are killing our citizens… you’re going to categorize them as foreign terrorist organizations… We need to build a wall across the southern border… Mexico is supposed to pay for it, remember. Here’s how you do that. I’m going to have fees on remittances from foreign workers when they send the money back to foreign countries, we’re going to tax it, and we’re going to build the wall with that.”


“There needs to be limits on immigration and we should not be importing people from cultures that are hostile.”

Haley“All of the seven or 8 million illegals that have come under Biden’s watch absolutely have to go back.”


“I think we should send special operations over and take out the cartels. I think we should do a remain in Mexico policy, so they never step foot in US soil in the first place, but look at where fentanyl came from… It came from China. That’s why we need to end all normal trade relations with China until they stop murdering Americans with fentanyl.”


“You look at the countries that have terrorist activity that want to hurt Americans. You can ban those people from those countries, that’s the way we should look at it is which countries are a threat to us. You look at what came across the southern border, what worries me the most are those that came from Iran, from Yemen, from Lebanon, those areas where they say death to America. That’s where you want to be careful.”

Ramaswamy“The easy part is talking about how we’re going to use our military to secure the border… But I want to get back to this issue of the root cause because a lot of these are coming from labs in Wuhan, China of all places, drug materials that are going to the Mexican drug cartels that they’re pumping across that southern border like a modern opium war.”


“What about all of the illegals who are already here? Here’s the answer. There’s 287G in the law. That is a provision that already allows ICE agents to deputize.”

ChristieWhile Christie does not remark upon the topic, he has been known to be against illegal immigration and for deportations.

Each of the four candidates holds different views on how to handle undocumented immigration. DeSantis is in favor of stricter border control and the construction of a wall across the southern border, Ramaswamy wants to tackle the root problem, Christie is in favor of deportation, and Haley wants to use military force to eliminate known sources of fentanyl sponsored by drug cartels.

The Economy

As usual, the question of how to improve the economy was also up for discussion. 34% of Americans currently believe that the economy is the most pressing issue in 2024.

CandidatesPolitician Quotes/Stances
DeSantis“We’re going to get the inflation down, we’re going to get the interest rates down, we are going to reduce spending, and I will be willing to veto and I vetoed a lot as governor of Florida and we’ll do that. We’re also going to open up all of our domestic energy for production, lower your gas prices, lower the price of fuel.”


“Another thing that’s burdening young people are these student loans. Now, I don’t support having a truck driver having to pay a student loan for someone that got a degree in gender studies… These student loans are going to be backed by the universities because they need to have an incentive to produce gainful employment for people. They should not be indulging in ideological studies… we’re going to take some of this money and we’re going to move it to actual vocational training.”


“They want to get rid of cash. Crypto – they want to force you to do that… On day one as president, we take the idea of central bank digital currency and we throw it in the trash can.”

Haley“The average homeowner in America is 49 years old… that used to be the American dream and now it’s out of reach… They’ve made the regulations so hard that they don’t want to give loans on mortgages anymore. So, what we have to do is we have to open it up. We have to one, grow our economy, so that people have more money in their pockets. We’ve got to look at the supply chain and make sure that we are funneling that, so that builders don’t have to sit there and go overseas to find things. And then we need to make sure that we really stop paying down this debt, make sure that we stop the borrowing, stop the spending. I’ll veto any spending bill that doesn’t take us back to pre-COVID levels.”

In conclusion, the candidates wish to reduce government spending and thus, government debt, decrease domestic spending and decrease exports from foreign countries, consider regulating/limiting cryptocurrency, and encourage trade/technical education rather than degrees that may make it difficult to get a job in the workforce.

Transgender Issues

The topic of transgender rights and relevant medical operations and hormone treatment have long been topics of contention between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans largely tend to disapprove, as shown by the recent influx of laws passed restricting access to the aforementioned operations or medicines.

CandidatesPolitician Quotes/Stances
DeSantis“I signed legislation in Florida banning the mutilation of minors because it is wrong. We cannot allow this to happen in this country.”
HaleyHaley did not remark upon the topic. She has been known not to support transgender-related issues, however, but also has a milder stance than the other candidates who were more vocal about it, claiming that “I think the law should stay out of it.
Ramaswamy“I think the north star here is transgenderism is a mental health disorder. We don’t let you smoke a cigarette by the age of 18. We don’t let you have an addictive drink of alcohol by the age of 21. I just challenged Ron DeSantis to go one step further and support what I think is clearly within the authority to do using federal funds just like Reagan did in ’84 for the Highway Act that said the minimum drinking age needs to be 21. We can do the same thing when it comes to banning genital mutilation or chemical castration.”
Christie“Governor Christie, you do not favor a ban on trans medical treatments for minors, saying it’s a parental rights issue.


Republicans believe in less government, not more, in less involvement with government, not more in government involvement in people’s lives.”

The candidates are fairly evenly split. Although none of them are vocal supporters of transgender rights, only half of them want to actively pursue legislation to ban access to operations or hormone treatment for minors. The other two, on the other hand, support less government involvement, a common goal for Republicans.

Government Trust

With public trust in the government at only 16% in general and an even lower 8% among Republicans, solving the issue of distrust between citizens and the government is an important issue, especially considering the continuing downward trend of these numbers. Public trust in the government hasn’t considerably increased at all since 2001.

CandidatesPolitician Quotes/Stances
DeSantis“What you should do for election integrity is do what we did in Florida. 20 years ago, Florida and elections were a joke. Everybody would laugh at it. I came in, I removed a couple supervisors from South Florida. We require voter ID universal, no Zuckerbucks, no mass mail balloting and no ballot harvesting… I’m going to have organizations in all the swing states. If they’re harvesting, we are harvesting. If they’re Zuckerbucks, we’re Zuckerbucks. We are going to exploit whatever the rules are. I favor changing the rules to be like Florida and some of the other states that have done a good job, but until then we have to do that.”
Christie“What I would do as president having had that experience and the only one who’s had that experience is to… pick U.S. attorneys who will only care about making sure that justice is done without regard to any other consideration but the facts that are presented and whether someone is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and the government can prove it.” (in reference to decreased trust in the FBI)

Foreign Relations

American relations with China have eased somewhat since the US-China summit in November of 2023, with both leaders sticking to their plans and generally publicly agreeing. However, considering the history of tension between the two countries, there is still speculation over the stability of such a relationship: see “Why Xi Thinks He Got the Better of Biden,” “Analysis: Xi-Biden summit leaves China’s economic policies up in air,” and “‘He’s a dictator’: Biden claims progress in Xi meeting, but deep fault lines remain.”

CandidatesPolitician Quotes/Stances
DeSantis“if China invades Taiwan, would you send American troops, as President Biden’s has said he would do?


We will be able to deter that from happening.”

Haley“We have got to get foreign money out of our universities. You’ve got Arab money, you’ve got Chinese money, you’ve got others. We need to go to every university and say, ‘You either take foreign money or you take American money, but the days of taking both are over.’”


“The third thing is we really do need to ban TikTok once and for all, and let me tell you why. For every 30 minutes that someone watches TikTok, every day, they become 17% more anti-Semitic, more pro-Hamas based on doing that.” (TikTok has also been frequently criticized by the Republican Party as it was created in China)


“Iran, China and Russia want to destroy the West. We have to start acting strong again.”

Ramaswamy“I also do believe the Second Amendment is a critical way of preventing foreign autocrats from being able to… It’s worked in America, why wouldn’t it work in Taiwan?”


“it comes back down to that economic dependence. We cannot depend on [China] for our pharmaceuticals, our semiconductors, and people have been lied to for a long time.”

Christie“I don’t think we have constitutional authority over Taiwan, to give them a Second Amendment. I think they can only do that for themselves.”


Healthcare is another issue within the United States. 52% of Americans say healthcare is “fair” or “poor,” while only 48% say it is “excellent/good.” In addition, a poll from 2023 shows that 70% of Americans say the healthcare system has failed them. In the following section, candidates discuss how to fix U.S. healthcare from an economic perspective.

CandidatesPolitician Quotes/Stances
DeSantis“Well, I think we have millions of Americans who do not have access to affordable healthcare… The other thing is we have millions and millions of people that don’t have access to good doctors and good hospitals… you need price transparency. You need to hold the pharmaceuticals accountable. You need to hold big insurance and big government accountable, and we’re going to get that done.”
Ramaswamy“They’ll pay for anything, like feeding tubes, doctors to be pill pushers, but for the procedures that can actually make these patients better, we have a broken healthcare system that doesn’t pay for it… We need to start having diverse insurance options in a competitive marketplace that cover actual health, preventative medicine, diet, exercise, lifestyle and otherwise. And here’s how we deliver that, end the antitrust exemptions for health insurance companies. That’s where the competitive marketplace begins… that’s the answer.”

What’s Next

So what do the candidates propose should be done? They wish to continue supporting Israel in the Israel-Hamas war, although they’re divided over whether to continue to provide support to Ukraine. And, as mentioned in the previous debates, they wish to increase border control and rely less economically on China.

Reduction of government spending, increasing reliance on domestic manufacturers, and healthcare reform are also high on their list of priorities.

When it comes to the topic of transgender issues, however, the candidates are pretty evenly split. Half of them wish to ban access to transgender-affirming medical care for minors while the other half support government nonintervention.

More information about each of the individual candidates, their political bias, and policy ratings, can be found in Biasly’s Politician Ratings.

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