Republican debate descends into a SQUABBLE: Chris Christie rips 'amateur' Vivek Ramaswamy as a guy who 'sounds like ChatGPT' as GOP rivals attack each other, DeSantis slams Biden's Maui response and Fox anchors have to stop interruptions

The first Republican primary debate descended into chaos on Wednesday night with the candidates shouting over one another in an effort to make their point as they squabbled on a range of issues from climate change to January 6th to foreign policy.

The stakes were high as the eight candidates searched for a breakout, viral moment that would set fire to their campaigns and give them some momentum to catch up with Trump, who leads by double digits in the polls.

It was unclear if any one accomplished that goal. The debate itself was overshadowed by multiple incidents of shouting and yelling. Often words could not be made out in the cross-talk.

It got so heated, debate moderator Bret Baier of Fox News reminded the contenders: ‘We need to reestablish some ground rules. When we hear this bell, your time is done. We appreciate your aggressiveness here. 30 seconds is 30 seconds.’

Toward the end of the night, as the shouting continued when the candidates moved into a lightening round of questions, Nikki Haley pleaded to the moderators: ‘You have to get control of this debate.’

‘We’re going to get control of this debate,’ Baier replied. ‘This is a lightening round. Not Rolling Thunder.’

The candidates take the stage at the Republican debate: L-R), former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and North Dakota governor Doug Burgum

The candidates take the stage at the Republican debate: L-R), former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and North Dakota governor Doug Burgum

President Joe Biden was a small target during the night. Ron DeSantis tore into his response to the Maui wildfires during the first Republican primary debate on Wednesday night.

‘Biden was on the beach while those people were suffering,’ the Florida governor said in a response to question on climate change.

‘He was asked about it and said no comment. Are you kidding me? As somebody that has handled disasters in Florida you have to be activated. You have to be there, present and helping people who are doing.’

Biden visited Maui on Monday to see the devastation from the wildfires but was criticized when he tried to relate to the victims by dredging up his own family tragedy and talking about a decades-old kitchen fire in his home. Ahead of his visit he was heavily criticized for not commenting on the disaster while he was on a beach vacation.

But Biden, who is the man the Republicans want to replace in the White House, wasn’t the main target of the night. Nor was Donald Trump, who is leading the other Republican contenders by double digits in the polls for the GOP presidential nomination.

That target was Vivek Ramaswamy, who, at 38, is the youngest contender. He is also the least experienced when it comes to politics. He is businessman who made millions as a biotech entrepreneur.

Top moments from the first Republican primary debate include:

  • American ‘decline’ showcased in viral ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ song is due to Biden AND Trump administration spending say GOP hopefuls 
  • Rising GOP star Vivek Ramaswamy starts debate by slamming Mike Pence in furious back-and-forth and calling Ron DeSantis a ‘super PAC puppet’ 
  • VP Pence says years in public service is what Americans want – not a ‘rookie’ like Vivek as Christie piles on calling him an Obama wannabe 
  • ‘If you want something done, ask a woman’: Nikki Haley channels Margaret Thatcher as only female candidate onstage 
  • Chris Christie insists Hunter Biden would go to prison for 10 YEARS if he’s president and DeSantis questions the thousands he’s made off paintings 
  • A national abortion ban divides Republican candidates: Pence backs 15-week federal ban while Nikki Haley says you have to be ‘real’ with the American people
  • DeSantis says he’s the only one who has taken action to stop ‘radical George Soros funded’ district attorneys and touts Florida’s 50 year low crime rate
  • All Republicans except Gov. Hutchinson say they’ll SUPPORT Trump no matter if he’s convicted in one of his four indictments
  • DeSantis says Trump is NOT the future and Chris Christie slams his conduct for being  beneath the office’ – and gets BOOED
  • Foreign policy prowess is critical says former UN Ambassador Haley who slammed Vivek for having no experience ‘and it shows’ 
  • GOP candidates divided on providing more aid to Ukraine versus domestic issues – including finishing the border wall 

It was former Vice President Mike Pence who got in the early hit on Ramaswamy, who is rising fast in the polls. He slammed Ramaswamy’s lack of experience. Pence, 64, has spent most of his life in politics, serving as a member of Congress and governor of Indiana before becoming Donald Trump’s vice president.

‘I’ve got news for you, Vivek,’ he said. ‘The president of the United States has to confront every crisis facing America. I will put our nation back on the path to growth and responsibility. Just as I did in congress and as governor and when I was vice president.’

Ramaswamy snapped back and the two men got into a rapid-fire back-and-forth that had them talking over one while the audience gasp and roared.

‘This is not that complicated,’ Ramaswamy said. ‘Put people back to work by no longer paying them more to stay at home.’

‘I’m not sure I exactly understood Mike Pence’s comment,’ he added. ‘I will let you parse that out.

‘Let me explain it to you to if I can,’ Pence replied. ‘I will go slower this time.’

‘Now is not the time for on-the-job training. We don’t need to bring in people without experience,’ the former vice president continued.

Ramaswamy snapped back: ‘Let me respond. Now that everyone has gotten the memorize preprepared slogans we can have a real discussion now.’

‘Is that one of yours?,’ Pence replied.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy waves to the crowd - he was the biggest target in the early hour of the debate

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy waves to the crowd – he was the biggest target in the early hour of the debate

The back-and-forth between Mike Pence and Vivek Ramaswamy grew so heated that, at one point, Fox News simply went to a split screen between them

The back-and-forth between Mike Pence and Vivek Ramaswamy grew so heated that, at one point, Fox News simply went to a split screen between them

Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy bickered at several point during the debate

Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy bickered at several point during the debate

The bickering between the two got so heated that, at one point, Fox News, the debate sponsor, simply went to a split screen between them as they talked and shouted over one another. 

‘We live in a dark moment,’ Ramaswamy said during a clash with Pence over culture. ‘It is not morning in America. We live in a dark moment. We have to confront the fact that we are in an internal cold culture civil war. You need to recognize that.’

Pence rejected Ramaswamy’s argument that the U.S. is in an identity crisis, saying the United States needs ‘government as good as our people.’ 

And, during the lightening round of questions, Pence was asked about Biden’s age. Biden, if he wins a second term, will be 82 in January 2025 when he would take the oath of office.

Asked if presidents have to pass a mental and physical test to serve, Pence responded: ‘It might be a good idea to have everybody in Washington, D.C., pass a mental test.’

He then got in his hit at Ramaswamy: ‘We don’t need a president who is too old but we don’t need a president who’s too young.’

Ramaswamy quickly hit back: ‘I want to address Vice President Pence’s comment. We do need somebody of a different generation to lead this nation forward.’

It got worse for Ramaswamy as the evening went on. Chris Christie and Nikki Haley joined in piling on against him.

During a segment of questions on foreign policy, Haley touted her credentials as the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and slammed Vladimir Putin for the crash of a plane where Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was listed as a passenger. Prigozhin led a failed munity against the Russian president this summer.

‘Good luck on your future career on the boards of Lockheed and Raytheon,’ Ramaswamy said to her.

‘I’m not on the boards,’ Haley hit back. ‘You have been attacking everyone on this stage.’

She also slammed his position on Ukraine – he wants to cut off funding to the war-torn country.

‘You are choosing a murderer over a pro-American country,’ she said. ‘You would make America less safe. You have no foreign policy experience and it shows. It shows.’

Nikki Haley said, to great applause: ¿I think this is exactly why Margaret Thatcher said if you want something said ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.¿

Nikki Haley said, to great applause: ‘I think this is exactly why Margaret Thatcher said if you want something said ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.’

Ron DeSantis gets his makeup touched up during a commercial break

Ron DeSantis gets his makeup touched up during a commercial break

The audience in the debate hall at the Fiserv Forum

The audience in the debate hall at the Fiserv Forum

A question on climate change set off another fiery exchange.

Ramaswamy called climate change a ‘hoax,’ which was heavily booed by the crowd.

‘Let us be honest as Republicans,’ he said. ‘As the only person on stage not I can say this. Climate change is a hoax. The reality is the anti- carbon agenda is the wet blanket on our economy. The reality is more people are dying of bad climate change policies than they are of actual climate change.’

As the audience booed and all the candidates erupted, Chris Christie broke in to compare Ramaswamy to Barack Obama.

‘I have had enough already tonight,’ the former governor of New Jersey said, describing Ramaswamy as ‘chatgpt standing up here.’

‘The last person in one of these debates who stood in the middle of the stage and said this as a skinny guy with an odd last name … was Barack Obama. I am afraid we are dealing with the same type of amateur standing on the stage tonight.’

Asked to weigh in, Haley said, to great applause: ‘I think this is exactly why Margaret Thatcher said if you want something said ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.’

‘First of all, we do care about clean air, clean water. We want to see that taken care up. There is a right way to do it. The right way is first of all, climate change is real. Yes, it is. If you want to change the environment, we need to start telling China and India that they have to lower their emissions.’

And Tim Scott weighed in to say: ‘Going back and forth and being childish is not helpful to the American people to decide on the next leader of our country.’

One controversial issue where the candidates had a relatively civil debate was on abortion.

Haley, the only female candidate on stage, said there must be a ‘common ground’ approach that can unite all Americans in a ‘respectful’ manner without ‘demonizing’ the issue.

‘Can’t we all agree that we should ban late-term abortions? Can’t we all agree that we should encourage adoptions?’ she questioned.

‘And can’t we all agree that we are not going to put a woman in jail or give her the death penalty if she gets an abortion?’ Haley continued, sparking applause in the audience.

Pence called her a good friend but argued there should be a 15-week national standard enacted, saying it was a ‘moral’ issue and not a ‘state’ issue.

The eight Republican candidates took the debate stage on Wednesday night with one big name missing from the room: Donald Trump. 

They waved to the crowd as they came out and took their places at the podium. Their order was determined by their standing in the polls with the highest-polling ones at center stage.

It is the first major prime time event for the Republican candidates for president.

The first question of the night was about the economy, which voters say is one of their top issues for the 2024 election. It went to DeSantis and he used it to attack Joe Biden and the president’s oldest son Hunter.

‘We need to send Joe Biden back to his basement and reverse American decline,’ the Florida governor said.

‘We cannot succeed as a country if you are working hard and you can’t afford groceries, a car or new home while Hunter Biden can make hundreds of thousands of dollars on lousy paintings. That is wrong.’

Ramaswamy, who has gained a lot of attention into the run-up to the debate, was asked why voters should choose him given his lack of experience.

He turned the question into a reason to vote for him, garnering massive applause from the audience.

‘First let me address the question that is on everybody’s mind at home tonight. Who the heck is this skinny guy with a funny last name and what the heck is he doing in the middle of the debate stage?,’ he said. 

‘I am not a politician. You are right about that. I am an entrepreneur. My parents came to this country with no money 40 years ago. I have gone on to found multibillion dollar companies. I did it while marrying my wife, raising her two sons, following our faith in God.’

‘That’s the American dream. And I am genuinely worried that that American dream will not exist for our two sons and their generation unless we do something about it. I do think it will take an outsider, ‘he noted.

‘You have a broken car you don’t turn over the keys to the people – you hand it to a new generation That is why I am in this race and we are just getting warmed up.’

Burgum came out wearing a boot on his left leg after suffering a high-grade Achilles tear in a pick-up game of basketball on Tuesday night. He’ll rest on a stool during commercial breaks.

‘I am from a town of 300 people. It’s a big deal to make it on the stage with these folks. They were all wishing me well and I think I took them a little too literally when they said go to Milwaukee and break a leg,’ he said as the audience laughed. 

Former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and Ambassador Nikki Haley on the debate stage

Former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and Ambassador Nikki Haley on the debate stage

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (L) and former Governor from South Carolina and UN ambassador Nikki Haley gesture as they argued about foreign policy during the debate

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (L) and former Governor from South Carolina and UN ambassador Nikki Haley gesture as they argued about foreign policy during the debate

Ron DeSantis scratches his head during a commercial break in the debate

Ron DeSantis scratches his head during a commercial break in the debate

The moderators finally asked about Trump in the second hour of the debate. The candidates were asked to raise their hands if they would hold to the pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee, even if that is Donald Trump.

All but Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson raised their hands. Ramaswamy was first in the air. DeSantis and Pence did so belated and Christie was notably not enthusiastic as he sort of waved his hand.

The issue of the former president led to another shouting match between the contenders – this time between Christie and Ramaswamy. 

Asked about his lackluster hand raising, Christie said: ‘Here is the bottom line. Someone has to stop normalizing this conduct. Whether or not you believe the criminal charges are right or wrong, the conduct is beneath the office of president of the United States.’

Many in the audience booed him. ‘That is the great thing about this country, booing is allowed but it doesn’t change the truth,’ he responded.

Ramaswamy jumped in to attack him: ‘Let’s just speak the truth. Trump was the best president of the 21st century. Chris Christie, your claim that Donald Trump is motivated by vengeance and grievance would be more credible if your campaign were not based on vengeance and grievance against one man.

The two men shouted over each other.

Christie berated Ramaswamy on his lack of experience.: ‘You have never done it, like you have never done anything to try to advance the interest of this government except to put yourself forward as a candidate. I did as U.S. Attorney and governor. I am not going to bow to anyone.’

Hutchison explained why he didn’t raise his hand: ‘Donald Trump was morally disqualified from being president as a result of what happened on January 6th. More people are understanding the importance of that, including legal scholars who say he may be disqualified under the 14th amendment from being president again as a result of the insurrection. This could disqualify him under our rules and under the constitution. I am not going to support somebody who has been convicted of a serious felony or who has been disqualified under our constitution.’

The candidates were also asked if Mike Pence did the right thing as vice president on January 6th, 2021, when he certified Joe Biden as the winner of the electoral college.

‘Mike did his duty. Is this what we are going to be focused on going forward? The rehashing of this?,’ DeSantis said. ‘Democrats would love that. I am not letting Biden hang out in the basement. We are going to run him where I get around this country and hold him accountable.’

Christie defended Pence, who has been criticized and called a ‘traitor’ by some Trump supporters.

‘Mike Pence stood for the constitution and he deserves – not grudging credit – he deserves our thanks as Americans for putting his oath of office and the constitution of the United States before personal, political, and unfair pressure,’ he said.

The candidates were asked to raise their hands if they would hold to the pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee, even if that is Donald Trump. All but Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson raised their hands. Ramaswamy was first in the air. DeSantis and Pence did so belated and Christie was notably not enthusiastic as he sort of waved his hand

The candidates were asked to raise their hands if they would hold to the pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee, even if that is Donald Trump. All but Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson raised their hands. Ramaswamy was first in the air. DeSantis and Pence did so belated and Christie was notably not enthusiastic as he sort of waved his hand

Chris Christie and Mike Pence chat during a commercial break

Chris Christie and Mike Pence chat during a commercial break

Vivek Ramaswamy gives the crowd a wave

Vivek Ramaswamy gives the crowd a wave

Former Governor from South Carolina and UN ambassador Nikki Haley (R) looks on as (from L) Former Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, former US Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy speak during a commercial break

Former Governor from South Carolina and UN ambassador Nikki Haley (R) looks on as (from L) Former Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, former US Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy speak during a commercial break

Haley said the American people should be trusted to decide the next GOP nominee but pointed to polls that showed many Americans don’t want a rematch between Biden and Trump.

‘I do think he did the right thing. We need to give him credit for that. I will tell you, when it comes to whether President Trump should serve or not, I trust the American people. Let them vote and let them decide. They will tell you it is time for a new, generational, conservative leader. Three quarters of Americans don’t want a rematch between trump and Biden. Trump is the most disliked politician in America. We cannot win a general election that way,’ she said.

Ramaswamy jumped in to ask the rest of the candidates to join ‘me in making a commitment that you would pardon Donald Trump. I am the only candidate on the stage to say it.’

‘I don’t know why you assume Donald Trump will be convicted of these crimes,’ Pence responded. ‘That is the difference between you and me. I have given pardons when I was governor of the state of Indiana. It usually follows a finding of guilt and contrition by the individual convicted. If I am president, I will give fair consideration.’

Trump, meanwhile, had counterprogramming of his own. The former president sat down for a pre-taped interview with Tucker Carlson. He called his critics ‘savages’ and claimed his opponents will try and ‘steal’ the election again, in a preview of the interview posted online by Carlson.

Former Fox News host Carlson asked the former president if the U.S. is heading towards a civil war and if he was worried his enemies want to kill him in the first clip of their conversation that will air at 9pm.

Trump told Carlson he doesn’t think President Joe Biden will ‘make it’ when asked about his health and also accused Mitch McConnell of trying to whip up support to impeach him. 

He also explained why he skipped the debate.

‘The polls have come out and I’m leading by 50 and 60 points. And you know, some of them are at one and zero and two. And I’m saying, ‘do I sit there for an hour or two hours, whatever it’s going to be and get harassed by people that shouldn’t even be running for president. Should I be doing that?’ Trump told Carlson. 

Trump has surrogates in the debate crowd: his eldest son Don Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle, Kari Lake and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The four mingled with Trump supporters outside the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, where the debate will take place. About two dozen MAGA fans were outside waving Trump signs and signs calling the debate an audition for Trump’s running mate.

An armored vehicle and security personnel outside the Fiserv Forum before the start of the Republican presidential debate

An armored vehicle and security personnel outside the Fiserv Forum before the start of the Republican presidential debate

Donald Trump Jr. and his partner Kimberly Guilfoyle mingle with attendees as they arrive at the debate hall

Donald Trump Jr. and his partner Kimberly Guilfoyle mingle with attendees as they arrive at the debate hall 

People in a Dr Antony Fauci costume (L) and a Donald Trump costume (R) stand outside the Fiserv Forum before the start of the Republican presidential debate

People in a Dr Antony Fauci costume (L) and a Donald Trump costume (R) stand outside the Fiserv Forum before the start of the Republican presidential debate

Donald Trump had his own counter programming in the form of an interview with Tucker Carlson

Donald Trump had his own counter programming in the form of an interview with Tucker Carlson 

President Biden spoke to reporters during his Lake Tahoe vacation after a workout and while drinking a banana blueberry smoothie, saying he would be watching the debate

President Biden spoke to reporters during his Lake Tahoe vacation after a workout and while drinking a banana blueberry smoothie, saying he would be watching the debate

In fact he’s so far ahead that even if one of the candidates has a viral moment it may not be enough to gain ground on the former president, who will be back in the news on Thursday when he arrives in Atlanta for his arraignment in Georgia’s election interference case. 

‘I don’t think a lot of people Thursday morning are going to be talking about what happens here at this little league game,’ Trump ally Kari Lake told DailyMail.com in an interview Tuesday.

It remains unclear whether any candidate can use the night to make up enough ground to seriously challenge Trump: the former president leads DeSantis by 41 points in the RealClearPolitics polling average and leads Ramaswamy by 49 points. 

And those are his two closest challengers. 

It’s unclear if Trump will watch the event.

President Joe Biden said he will be tuning in.

But he joked he had no expectations from the night, which is the first formal gathering of Republicans attempting to defeat him in next year’s election. 

‘I’m going to try to see — get as much as I can, yes,’ he told reporters Wednesday in Lake Tahoe where he is on a week-long vacation. Biden was carrying a banana blueberry smoothie as he spoke and had just come from Pelodog, a combination pilates and spin class studio.

Asked what his expectations were, Biden smiled broadly and laughed: ‘I have none.’

source: dailymail.co.uk