Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie yelled at businessman Vivek Ramaswamy during a particularly feisty exchange during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by NewsNation on Wednesday night.Gerald Herbert/AP
Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.Chris Christie said the quiet part out loud at the fourth Republican debate Wednesday night. The dominant figure in the Republican Party—former President Donald Trump—isn’t on the debate stage, and when the debate began, nobody talked about him despite his dominance in the polls.
When the former New Jersey governor finally wrestled some airtime from his three opponents—Vivek Ramaswamy, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis—he noted that none of them had taken on Trump directly.
“We’re 17 minutes into this debate and…we’ve had these three acting as if this race is between the four of us,” Christie said. “The fifth guy, who doesn’t have the guts to show up and stand here, he’s the one who, as you just put it, is way ahead in the polls.”
“The fact is that when you go and say the truth about somebody who is a dictator, a bully, who has taken shots at everybody…then I understand why these three are timid to say anything about it,” he added, calling Trump “Voldemort, he who shall not be named.”
During his first time speaking in tonight’s GOP debate, Chris Christie criticized his debate competitors and moderators for not bringing up Donald Trump or clearly denouncing the former president’s falsehoods and recent comments about being a “dictator.” https://t.co/kN48tKlMMu pic.twitter.com/3aNfIwvXYK
— POLITICO (@politico) December 7, 2023
Ramaswamy spent the early part of the debate railing against the “woke industrial complex” while attacking Haley. Haley and DeSantis, meanwhile, battled over who was more anti-trans.
Christie has a point: Trump is, of course, leading President Joe Biden in five out of six battleground states, according to a sobering New York Times/Siena College poll that dropped last month. He’s also leading in Iowa, polling at over 45% just a month ahead of the caucus.
But for all Christie’s grandstanding, he eventually took the bait. Just minutes later, he too was sparring with Ramaswamy, calling him “the most obnoxious blowhard in America” before dragging Ramaswamy for “attacking Nikki Haley’s basic intelligence, not her positions, her basic intelligence.”
Later in the debate, the moderators forced the candidates to confront the elephant in the room: Trump’s fitness for office.
Christie came out swinging, alleging his opponents were “afraid to offend” and explicitly condemn Trump.
DeSantis conceded that he thinks “we need to have somebody younger.”
Ramaswamy alleged his three opponents had been “licking Donald Trump’s boots,” adding that he thought the real enemy was “the deep state” that he claimed Trump was unafraid to take on.