Vivek Ramaswamy floated the idea that he would not come to the third debate, but he eventually committed.
He then came into the debate with one purpose, that being to portray everyone else on the stage as a political hack whom the system has corrupted.
The debate ran much better than Fox News did during the first two debates.
The moderators were in more control, and there was more discretion on the part of the moderators to allow candidates to respond to attacks when their names were mentioned in another response.
DeSantis and Haley seemed to be the winners overall, which was not surprising.
For the most part, DeSantis did not get involved in the mudslinging and gave very clear, concise answers when asked questions.
For example, when addressing the Ukraine war, DeSantis responded:
"We need to bring this war to an end.
"The U.S. needs to focus more on other priorities, including the southern border … We need the Europeans to step up and do their fair share, and we need to get serious about this threat this country faces, which is the Chinese Communist Party."
As expected, Chris Christie focuses most of his venom on Trump, stating:
"Anybody who is going to be spending the next year and a half of their life focusing on keeping themselves out of jail and courtrooms cannot lead this party or this country."
The real juice of the night, and what created the most buzz, was Vivek Ramaswamy on what appeared to be a mission to take out every career politician on the stage, especially Nikki Haley, who has enjoyed a nice surge and a ton of financial backing from what would be considered establishment donors.
Ramaswamy went after her with both barrels all night, calling her "Dick Cheney in three-inch heels."
He also attacked her on TikTok, bringing her daughter into the conversation, and questioned how she raises her family, which did not sit well with the crowd or Haley.
Here is that exchange…
Nikki Haley to Vivek Ramaswamy after he brings up that her daughter uses TikTok: "Leave my daughter out of your voice...Youre just scum." pic.twitter.com/fVRO6FJvlc
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) November 9, 2023
Family is a no-no, especially children who are not in the political world, and Haley responded as I would have expected her to, calling him "scum."
Nicole Schlinger, a longtime Iowa-based conservative strategist, pointed to this specific attack when critiquing the performances of the candidates, stating:
"Vivek was provocative as always.
"Ultimately, I don't think going after Nikki Haley's daughter will do him any favors."
The general feeling on social media was that this debate was a class on how to run a debate for Fox News.
Fewer candidates were talking over each other, and moderators were in much more control of the evening (having fewer people on stage clearly helped).
DeSantis seemed to be the winner of the night, but it was not going to be enough to change Trump supporters' minds, at least not Trump's hardcore base.
This is about establishing the alternative to Trump if he is convicted or loses a case before the primary voting starts or winds up pulling out of the election for some reason, in which case DeSantis would apparently be the leading candidate.
Trump's support bottoms out if he gets convicted of a felony, but the judges have conveniently scheduled the possible felony cases after voting starts, so that is not really an option. He could lose the fraud case before the election, which might hurt him a little, but I doubt it would have the impact of a felony conviction.
If Trump is to be challenged in this primary, I still firmly believe the only real threat is for DeSantis and Haley to team up before votes are cast and announce a ticket to take on Trump. If they do that, then get support from Pence, Christie, and possibly Tim Scott, it could be a problem for Trump.
On the flip side of that, if I were Trump, I would be wooing Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) as his VP for two reasons.
First, Trump's numbers soar with a black VP. And second, if Scott is Trump's VP, it offsets Haley in South Carolina.
Otherwise, by everyone staying in the race, they are just handing this primary election to Trump, giving us a repeat of the 2020 election.