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GOP debate live updates: DeSantis, Haley, Ramaswamy and Christie to face off in Alabama

Four candidates will take part in the fourth Republican primary debate tonight, which again is expected to go ahead without the man widely expected to be the eventual nominee of the party.

Former President Donald Trump will not be on stage in Tuscaloosa, Alabama at 8pm this evening, instead spending the evening fundraising.

Those who will appear include Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, biotech entrepreneur and anti-woke author Vivek Ramaswamy, and ex-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

None of them seem able to take down Mr Trump, who appears to be in more trouble because of his myriad of legal woes compared to anything his challengers for the nomination have been able to come up with.

Mr Ramaswamy has previously served as a Trump stand-in, supplying outrageous outbursts and becoming the punching bag for more old-school Republicans like Mr Christie and Ms Haley.

The debate will be hosted by NewsNation – the subscription-based network will broadcast the showdown at 8pm on Wednesday.

The debate will also be broadcast on the CW network, as well as livestreamed on the video-hosting platform Rumble, which is popular among those on the right.

Key Points

  • How to watch the debate

  • Who will be participating in the fourth GOP debate?

  • How do candidates qualify?

  • Will Donald Trump participate in the debate?

Where the Republican candidates stand on Donald Trump

Wednesday 6 December 2023 17:46 , Gustaf Kilander

The field of Republican candidates has winnowed significantly since the beginning of the campaign, going from eight hopefuls appearing on the stage during the first primary debate to just four in the fourth showdown.

The frontrunner by a wide margin is former President Donald Trump, who has declined to appear at any of the debates so far, but his reticence to argue his case hasn’t had any impact on his strong primary poll numbers.

The four top remaining challengers have all used different tactics to take on Mr Trump.

Biotech entrepreneur and anti-woke author Vivek Ramaswamy has been mimicking him while at times struggling to explain why he’s running against a man he has called “the best president of the 21st century”.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been creative in finding different ways to call Mr Trump a wildly incompetent and dangerous criminal.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has argued that he would be a more competent, and most importantly, younger, version of the ex-president who would be able to run again in 2028.

Former South Carolina Governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley initially instituted the “pro-having it and pro-eating it” cake policy of disgraced former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson when it came to Mr Trump, attempting to remain on the fence and not annoy either Republicans supportive or critical of the former president. More recently, she has become slightly more outspoken in her criticism.

Here’s a rundown of what each of them have said about Mr Trump.

Ramaswamy pushes anti-Semitic conspiracy theory ahead of fourth debate

Wednesday 6 December 2023 17:30 , Gustaf Kilander

Vivek Ramaswamy wrote on X ahead of the fourth Republican debate that “The Great Replacement Theory isn’t a grand ‘right-wing conspiracy theory,’ it’s just basic immigration policy for the modern Democrat Party.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center calls this a “racist conspiracy narrative falsely asserts there is an active, ongoing and covert effort to replace white populations in current white-majority countries”.

“The ‘great replacement’ theory is inherently white supremacist,” Jason Wilson and Aaron Flanagan write. “It depends on stoking fears that a non-white population, which the theory’s proponents characterize as ‘inferior,’ will displace a white majority. It is also antisemitic. Some proponents of the ‘great replacement’ do not explicitly attribute the plot to Jews. Instead, they blame powerful Jewish individuals such as financier and philanthropist George Soros or use coded antisemitic language to identify shadowy ‘elites’ or ‘globalists.’”

Debate moderators say they’ll attempt to get candidates to attack Trump

Wednesday 6 December 2023 17:00 , Gustaf Kilander

The moderators for tonight’s GOP debate have said they intend to try to get the candidates to go after former President Donald Trump.

Elizabeth Vargas of NewsNation told Politico, “I think in one of the first debates they took an hour for anybody to even say his name, which is ridiculous. He’s the person they all have to beat. You’re not running against Joe Biden right now, candidates, you’re running against Donald Trump”.

“Because otherwise, up there just criticizing Joe Biden, you’re basically all surrogates for Donald Trump,” she said, adding that the moderators will “ask a lot of questions” about Mr Trump.

“His pronouncements of late about mass deportations or removing Obamacare — there are a lot of things that he has said that are ripe for dissection and discussion and debate,” Ms Vargas told the outlet.

Nikki Haley’s approach to abortion is rooted in her earliest days in South Carolina politics

Wednesday 6 December 2023 16:30 , Meg Kinnard

As a state representative running a longshot campaign for South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley would often explain her opposition to abortion with a story about her family.

“I’m strongly pro-life, very pro-life, and not because my party tells me to be, but my husband was adopted, and so every day I know the blessings of having him there,” she said in 2010.

She won that race and was reelected as governor before serving as former President Donald Trump‘s United Nations ambassador. She’s now competing against Trump as the only woman seeking the Republican presidential nomination. And in a primary race animated by questions over the future of abortion access in the U.S., Haley is reviving the personal anecdote she would give in South Carolina — almost verbatim.

“I am unapologetically pro-life, not because the Republican Party tells me, but because my husband was adopted, and I live with that blessing every day,” she told a New Hampshire audience in May.

Haley is gaining attention in the GOP race with her calls for “consensus” around abortion, an unusual tone in a campaign where Republican White House hopefuls often prefer to highlight their eagerness to fight President Joe Biden and other Democrats. Her supporters say she has staked out a consistent approach from her earliest days in politics, challenging fellow Republicans to be pragmatic in their pursuit of a deeply conservative agenda.

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Highly principled libertarian or ruthlessly ambitious kook: Vivek Ramaswamy’s 10 principles to become Trump’s successor

Wednesday 6 December 2023 16:00 , Gustaf Kilander

More than a decade and a half after Vivek Ramaswamy was described as an intense “debater-extraordinaire” in The Harvard Crimson in December 2006, he took centre stage at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee as one of the top two candidates.

Depending on who you ask, the biotech entrepreneur came out of the 23 August showdown as either the winner or the candidate who took the most punches from his more senior colleagues.

For part of his undergraduate career, Mr Ramaswamy headed the Harvard Political Union, a role in which he was referred to as simply “The Chairman”. In a moment of foresight, Mr Ramaswamy told The Crimson that “I consider myself a contrarian. I like to argue.”

“Harvard teaches you to be a better questioner… you can be heard even if you aren’t in the mainstream,” he told the school paper.

During the debate on 23 August, former Vice President Mike Pence attacked his age and inexperience, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, clearly frustrated at his lack of foreign policy knowledge, ranted at him about his policy of cutting aid to Ukraine and handing over large swathes of land to Russia.

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A timeline of Donald Trump’s rivalry with Ron DeSantis

Wednesday 6 December 2023 15:30 , Joe Sommerlad, Ariana Baio

A shaky start to Florida governor Ron DeSantis’ campaign has continued to disappoint even though he was predicted to be ex-president Donald Trump’s primary challenger for the Republican nomination.

Mr DeSantis has seemingly failed to rise to the occasion of challenging Mr Trump after months of an increasingly tense back-and-forth.

But there was a time when the two got along swimmingly.

During his own tenure in the White House in 2018, Mr Trump loudly cheered Mr DeSantis’s bid for the governor’s mansion, throwing his weight behind the former congressman and appearing at rallies to stump for him.

But as Mr DeSantis rose through the ranks and was soon perceived as a potential 2024 candidate, Mr Trump changed his tune.

The ex-president has yelled a steady stream of insults and barbed nicknames, most of which Mr DeSantis wisely allowed to pass without public comment, though in more recent months he’s returned a comeback.

Here is a timeline of their disintegrating relationship.

The Republican candidates have learned from Trump’s legal woes and are condemning Jan 6 – aside from Vivek Ramaswamy

Wednesday 6 December 2023 15:00 , Gustaf Kilander

All but one of the Republican candidates appeared to have learned from former President Donald Trump’s deepening legal woes as they appeared for the first Republican primary debate in Milwaukee.

Former Vice President and 2024 candidate Mike Pence stood firmly behind his decision to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory despite mounting pressure from Mr Trump and his supporters, which included violent threats to his life.

Mr Pence was praised by the candidates next to him on the debate stage, apart from entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who came out swinging with conspiracy theories making the rounds on rightwing social media on a variety of topics.

Mr Ramaswamy instead called on Mr Pence to commit to pardoning Mr Trump.

“I’m the only candidate on the stage with the courage to move our nation forward,” Mr Ramaswamy argued.

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What the Republican candidates have said on the war in Ukraine

Wednesday 6 December 2023 14:30 , Gustaf Kilander and Ariana Baio

As President Joe Biden likes to remind anyone who will listen, “This is not your grandfather’s Republican Party”.

That has never been more evident than when examining the way the 2024 Republican presidential candidates approach the topic of Ukraine.

Support for Ukraine is dividing the GOP field. Several candidates believe the US should continue to support the war effort – a stance that adheres to more traditional Republican foreign policy beliefs.

For years, leaders in the GOP like George W Bush sounded alarms about Russia and supported Nato membership for Ukraine.

But in more recent years, notably under former president Donald Trump, modern conservatives have embraced isolationism.

A number of other Republican candidates, including Mr Trump – the current frontrunner, have expressed support for this.

This is a rundown of what the GOP presidential candidates have said about Ukraine.

Poll shows Donald Trump dominating GOP field as rivals sputter

Wednesday 6 December 2023 14:00 , John Bowden

Ahead of the fourth GOP debate in Alabama, Donald Trump is in his most comfortable polling position yet.

The ex-president remains atop the GOP field in a major way, having consolidated support from six in 10 Republican voters nationally according to a NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ poll released on Monday. Though Mr Trump will not appear this Wednesday for the debate held by NewsNation alongside his GOP fellows, his decision to skip the 2023-24 debate cycle appears to not have hurt his chances in the slightest.

Indeed, the poll shows few pieces of good news for his opponents. Mr DeSantis and Ms Haley are statistically tied, at 11 and 10 per cent respectively, while the former president’s base of support appears to trust him more on the most important issues to voters this year, including the economy.

Mr DeSantis, who has seen his campaign flagging for months, remains the second choice of a much wider segment of the party than any other candidate. But even that suggests that his base is more closely aligned with Mr Trump’s, and suggests that the former president’s support could surge even higher were the Florida governor to drop out.

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Republican 2024 candidates are walking the abortion line. One question is throwing them off balance

Wednesday 6 December 2023 13:30 , Ariana Baio

The 2024 Republican candidates for president have an abortion problem.

At every campaign stop, town hall, debate and interview the elephant in the room manages to creep its way into the dialogue – how should a potential president approach the legality of abortion at the federal level, if at all?

For decades, the ideal GOP candidate would state their pro-life stance and disagree with the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v Wade to earn a gold star and potential endorsements.

But since the fall of Roe last year, the issue of abortion has become increasingly complicated and voters have made it clear they’re looking for a candidate who can take a nuanced approach to the subject.

Across the board, polling shows that most Americans believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases in the first trimester, regardless of party lines. Simultaneously, the same majority of voters also believe abortions should be illegal in the third trimester.

Yet, when candidates are confronted with the issue, many display an obvious struggle to remain loyal to the Republican party’s long-held belief while extending a compromising hand to the rest of the country.

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A network still seeking an audience

Wednesday 6 December 2023 13:00 , David Bauder

The debate is to air from 8 to 10 p.m. ET and will also be shown on the CW network, which like NewsNation is owned by the Nexstar Media Group. The CW will show it live in the eastern half of the country, and tape-delayed out West.

NewsNation took over for the old WGN America network in late 2020 and has tried to establish itself with personalities who made names for themselves elsewhere: Chris Cuomo from CNN, Dan Abrams of ABC News, Ashleigh Banfield from MSNBC and former Fox News host Leland Vittert.

Ratings suggest it’s still looking for an audience — and has a way to go. NewsNation averaged 99,000 viewers in prime time in November, compared to Fox News Channel’s 1.73 million, MSNBC’s 1.14 million, CNN’s 540,000 and Newsmax’s 207,000, the Nielsen company said.

The network bills itself as an unbiased alternative to competitors with more hardened partisan images. Abrams told the Hollywood Reporter that NewsNation’s sweet spot is the “marginalized moderate majority who don’t want hyper-partisan outlets.”

Critics, like the liberal media watchdog Media Matters, suggest NewsNation leans more right than down the middle. A Daily Beast writer who watched the network for a week this fall, Joe Berkowitz, had a similar view, writing that “left-leaning voices are heard on NewsNation rarely, briefly and cursorily — as if to tick a box.”

The network’s ranks include several Fox News alums, including Grzech and Chris Stirewalt, its politics editor. Former Fox executive Bill Shine is a consultant.

Grzech suggested that those critics haven’t watched NewsNation much. “I don’t see that. and it isn’t the experience I’ve had here at all,” she said.

The fourth GOP debate will be a key moment for the young NewsNation cable network

Wednesday 6 December 2023 12:00 , David Bauder

By airing the fourth Republican presidential primary debate scheduled for Wednesday — again, minus Donald Trump — the young NewsNation television network will almost certainly reach the largest audience in its history.

Yet with two of the three debate moderators associated with conservative media and not NewsNation, including podcast star Megyn Kelly, the event threatens to be at odds with the centrist image the network is trying to cultivate.

“I think it’s an amazing opportunity and allows us to have more people fully sample the network and see who we are and what we’re doing,” said Cherie Grzech, NewsNation’s senior vice president of news and politics.

Her advice to those who have doubts about how NewsNation can pull it off: Just watch.

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Who qualified for the fourth GOP debate?

Wednesday 6 December 2023 11:00 , Gustaf Kilander

Four candidates have so far qualified for the fourth Republican primary debate, set to be hosted by NewsNation on 6 December.

Former Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and biotech entrepreneur and anti-woke author Vivek Ramaswamy have all qualified for the Wednesday night showdown at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

The debate will be moderated by former Fox News host Megyn Kelly, now of SiriusXM, NewsNation’s Elizabeth Vargas, and Eliana Johnson, the editor of the Washington Free Beacon.

The debate will be broadcast on NewsNation, a subscription-based network, and it will be streamed online on Rumble, the video-hosting site mainly used by right-wing voters. The first three debates were hosted by Fox News, Fox Business, and NBC News.

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Megyn Kelly’s rise was tied to Trump. Can she shine at a debate without him?

Wednesday 6 December 2023 10:00 , Kelly Rissman

Megyn Kelly made headlines in 2015 when she confronted Donald Trump at a presidential debate. Now as the fourth GOP primary debate approaches, she could have another starpower moment as moderator — but it will have to be without the former president.

Kelly, a lawyer-turned-journalist, was moderating her first presidential debate when Mr Trump, a real-estate-mogul-turned-politician, was competing in his first GOP primary debate. In this potent interaction, their paths changed forever.

The exchange made her into something of a cultural icon and boosted her career, at least temporarily, while it set the tone for his soon-to-be successful campaign.

She is a lawyer, he’s in legal trouble. He was accused of sexual misconduct, while she was allegedly the victim of someone else’s. At almost every intersection, they are coming from opposite ends of the spectrum, but have each, separately, carved out a niche rightwing audience.

And when they come together, no one can turn away.

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Was Ron DeSantis lacklustre campaign doomed from the start?

Wednesday 6 December 2023 09:00 , Gustaf Kilander

Ron DeSantis entered the Republican primary this spring as the preeminent challenger to former President Donald Trump and as the heir apparent taking on the old guard.

The Florida governor was “Trump without the baggage,” a far-right fighter ready to rumble with the “radical left” and govern more productively than the chaotic reality TV star, blustering real estate mogul and grievance-filled showman.

In a race against the oldest president in US history, being born in the late 1970s instead of the mid-1940s would also be helpful. Part of the thinking was that Mr DeSantis could win the White House by simply standing next to President Joe Biden on the debate stage and not looking old.

But was his floundering campaign always inevitable? Was Mr DeSantis always too awkward to be president?

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Where the GOP presidential candidates stand on abortion rights

Wednesday 6 December 2023 08:00 , Ariana Baio

The issue of abortion rights in the United States is staring the 2024 GOP presidential candidates in their eyes as they prepare to kick their campaigns into high gear.

Abortion has become a top concern for many voters

Since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark case Roe v Wade (1973) last summer, 21 states have enacted abortion restrictions ranging from a total ban to the point of viability.

Though the anti-abortion stance has long been associated with the Republican Party, it’s an unpopular view with most voters. Approximately 61 per cent of adults in the US believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to Pew Research Center.

As Americans look to next year’s presidential election, undoubtedly, voters will be considering where the Republican nominee stands on abortion when determining who to support.

Here is what each GOP presidential candidate has said on the issue.

What the GOP candidates have said about transgender rights

Wednesday 6 December 2023 07:00 , Ariana Baio

Over the last three years, the US has seen a record number of anti-transgender laws passed in states – restricting, and sometimes criminalising, youth access to gender-affirming care, diminishing trans visibility in classrooms and limiting participation in athletics.

So far in 2023, there have been over 566 anti-transgender bills introduced in government, according to a trans legislation tracker. Of that, 83 have passed and 358 are ongoing.

The mounting legislation is largely the result of a campaign by conservatives to create false narratives vilifying transgender people, as they seek to maintain a stronghold over their constituents.

Most likely, the 2024 Republican nominee for president will share similar rhetoric to other anti-transgender rights politicians.

Here’s what each GOP presidential candidate has said about transgender rights to date.

What the GOP debate candidates have said about the Israel-Hamas conflict: Chris Christie

Wednesday 6 December 2023 06:00 , Ariana Baio

Mr Christie has condemned Hamas and said the US should provide Israel with whatever support it needs to defend itself and take down Hamas

The former New Jersey governor believes the US should provide Israel with military aid and does not think a ceasefire is the right strategy.

He outlined three major strategies that he believes should be the objective of Israel and the US.

“Protect Israel’s citizens to their territorial integrity, make sure that we diminish Hamas’ capability to do this again and to keep, on track, with isolating Iran who is the banker of terrorism in the Middle East,” Mr Christie told CNN.

What the GOP debate candidates have said about the Israel-Hamas conflict: Vivek Ramaswamy

Wednesday 6 December 2023 05:00 , Ariana Baio

Mr Ramaswamy has mostly expressed support for Israel but maintained that the US should not be involved in the conflict at all.

“Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East but they get to make their own decisions about their national self-defence,” Mr Ramaswamy told Fox News.

“But if we’re going to get involved I do have some serious concerns about a prolonged ground invasion in Gaza,” he added.

Mr Ramaswamy has also been critical of Mr DeSantis’ attempt to deactivate pro-Palestinian groups on Florida’s campus.

What’s next for Megyn Kelly?

Wednesday 6 December 2023 04:00 , Kelly Rissman

While Mr Trump leads in the 2024 polls, Kelly has been hosting a talk show on SiriusXM since 2020, which Mr Lukasiewicz called an “overtly conservative opinion-based program.”

This past September, the pair reunited on Kelly’s show for a one-on-one interview, which boasted half a million views, a steep increase from most of her other episodes. After the interview, Mr Trump called the journalist “nasty,” while Kelly said their feud was “under the bridge,” The Hill reported.

Mr Muto wondered if the RNC asked Kelly to moderate the debate to “goad” Mr Trump to return to the debate stage.

Kelly also said she hoped to see the former president. “Trump is TV gold,” she told the DailyMail. “There’s a reason people can’t take their eyes off of him when he enters a room...so of course I would love to be part of any television program that has him on the opposite end.”

But Mr Trump will be notably absent once again. A Trump campaign spokesperson declined to comment on the decision to have Kelly moderate. He would have faced a panel of three women.

It’s been clear so far that Mr Trump doesn’t need the debates to keep his lead in the 2024 race, but the question of whether Kelly needs him to achieve mainstream success again lingers.

What the GOP debate candidates have said about the Israel-Hamas conflict: Nikki Haley

Wednesday 6 December 2023 03:15 , Ariana Baio

Ms Haley is supportive of Israel but believes the US should only play a minor role in the conflict.

“I don’t think America needs to be telling Israel what to do,” Ms Haley told the Carolina News and Record. “Let Israel do what Israel needs to do. Don’t talk to them about a ceasefire. Don’t talk to them about restraint. Don’t talk to them about humanitarian aid.”

The former United Nations ambassador has instead encouraged Mr Netanyahu to “finish” Hamas.

She has also said the US should not take people in Gaza as refugees but she expressed some sympathy for innocent civilians by acknowledging that many Palestinians “want to be free” from Hamas.

“America has always been sympathetic to the fact that you can separate civilians from terrorists,” she told CNN.

However, Ms Haley also circulated misinformation about the attack early on, by falsely claiming the US’s prisoner exchange deal with Iran helped fund Hamas’ attack on Israel.

A new beginning

Wednesday 6 December 2023 02:30 , Kelly Rissman

As scandals consumed Fox News, Megyn Kelly left the network in 2017 to work at NBC, in part as an anchor of “Megyn Kelly Today.” Mr Muto called the change “a play for mainstream relevance” while Mr Lukasiewicz called it a “deliberate move…to depoliticise her presence.”

Her stint was rocky and short-lived as multiple controversies bubbled up. Not long after her NBC career began, she was slammed for interviewing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

She also upset many viewers during an interview with the cast of Will & Grace and a so-called “superfan,” whom she asked: “Is it true that you became a lawyer, and that you became gay, because of Will?” The exchange prompted actress Debra Messing to say she was “dismayed” by Kelly’s remarks and regretted appearing on her programme.

The apparent last straw for her NBC tenure occurred in October 2018 when she discussed the appropriateness of wearing blackface on Halloween. Days later, her morning show was cut. In January 2019, NBC confirmed that she was no longer a company employee.

Not long after, Mr Trump suffered his own setback: he was defeated in 2020. Since then, he has become the subject of a slew of federal and state charges and lawsuits. At least one case harkened back to Kelly’s 2015 debate question; he was found liable for defaming and sexually assaulting E Jean Carroll.

What the GOP debate candidates have said about the Israel-Hamas conflict: Ron DeSantis

Wednesday 6 December 2023 01:45 , Ariana Baio

The Florida governor has taken a pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian approach.

Mr DeSantis has said he believes that the US should provide support to Israel but does not believe US service members should be on the ground.

“As commander-in-chief, I am not going to put our troops in harm’s way unless you are willing to defend them with everyone you have,” Mr DeSantis said during the debate. “Biden has ‘em out there. They are sitting ducks.”

However, Mr DeSantis did boast about planes, contracted by Florida, that brought “hospital supplies, drones, body armour and helmets” to first responders in Israel.

An Israeli diplomat contradicted the statement, saying the governor’s office sent medical supplies that were requested by the health ministry and was contacted to ensure a flight carrying rifle parts could leave from Miami.

Mr DeSantis has also condemned antisemitism in the US and around the world in the wake of the attacks and said the US should not accept innocent civilians from Gaza as refugees.

He ordered two Florida universities to deactivate their chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and also baselessly claimed that Gaza citizens “are all antisemitic”.

Fox News and the fallout of the feud

Wednesday 6 December 2023 01:00 , Kelly Rissman

The aftermath of the exchange between Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump at the first debate in 2015 did not ease any tensions.

“There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” Mr Trump said on ABC News, later clarifying that he had meant “her nose” when he said “wherever.”

Mr Muto argued that her feud with Mr Trump “turned the Fox News audience against her.”

Although the former Fox producer said that her question was “not out of bounds,” the GOP favourite’s ire likely stemmed from the fact that “Trump does not often find himself questioned by a woman who is sort of hostile toward him.”

“Whatever momentum she had, he completely halted,” he told The Independent. “Trump was mostly responsible for derailing Megyn Kelly’s career at Fox.”

Mark Lukasiewicz, who produced 10 presidential forums and is now the dean of Hofstra University’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication, had a different perspective.

While he agreed that the interaction may have temporarily derailed her career in conservative media, Mr Lukasiewicz said the moment “gave her a broader level of credibility” and complimented her question and her ability to ask it.

Her bosses, at least eventually, seemed to take Mr Trump’s side. Insiders at Fox told New York Magazine at the time that the network had been bombarded with pro-Trump emails. One source told the outlet that the emails were vastly anti-Kelly: “Roger [Ailes] was not happy. Most of the Fox viewers were taking Trump’s side.”

Days after the debate, Mr Trump tweeted that Ailes called him, assuring that he “will be treated fairly.”

But by early 2016, efforts toward diplomacy seemed to have failed; Mr Trump refused to participate in a subsequent debate moderated by Kelly. Their personal feelings aside, the feud buoyed both of their ratings. Her show’s viewership increased in the weeks and months that followed the debate, reports at the time revealed; his ratings also skyrocketed.

Months later, in May 2016, she then sat down with the Republican frontrunner in a one-on-one interview. The interview focused on his personal life — including his relationship with her. “Let’s talk about us,” she began, before patching things up between them by asking about his feelings. After the interview, Mr Trump tweeted: “Well, that is it. Well done Megyn — and they all lived happily ever after!”

Their paths crossed once again, as both were entwined in the #MeToo movement — for different reasons.

Just one month before the 2016 election, Mr Trump faced an October surprise: the release of the Access Hollywood tape. The clip sparked massive outrage as well as a barrage of sexual misconduct accusations against the GOP nominee. Seemingly unfazed by the allegations, he was elected president.

Meanwhile, Kelly reported her own #MeToo experience. Journalist Gretchen Carlson accused Ailes of sexually harassing her. Kelly initially refused to discuss matters until Fox News completed its investigation, according to Time, but later wrote in her memoir that Ailes had “made sexual comments to me” and “offers of professional advancement in exchange for sexual favors.”

What the GOP debate candidates have said about the Israel-Hamas conflict: Donald Trump

Wednesday 6 December 2023 00:15 , Ariana Baio

Mr Trump has been both somewhat critical and supportive of Israel.

At first, he asserted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unprepared for the attack, pushing some of the blame onto him. During that statement, Mr Trump also called Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant organisation designated a terrorist group, “smart”.

A spokesperson for Mr Trump later clarified that the ex-president was only “pointing out how incompetent Biden and his administration were by telegraphing to the terrorists an area that is susceptible to an attack” and did not mean Hezbollah was “good”.

After receiving backlash, Mr Trump changed his tune by condemning the attack and expressing support for Israel on Truth Social.

He has also claimed that Hamas’ attack on Israel would not have happened under his administration, much like he has when speaking about Ukraine.

The feud that launched a thousand feuds

Tuesday 5 December 2023 23:30 , Kelly Rissman

In the infamous first Republican debate in August 2015, Megyn Kelly began: “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”

“Only Rosie O’Donnell,” Mr Trump interjected.

Kelly continued, “Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks,” before listing examples.

“You once told a contestant on the Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?” she asked.

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct,” Mr Trump replied. “What I say is what I say, and honestly, Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably, maybe not, be based on the way you’ve treated me, but I wouldn’t do that.”

No stranger to making headlines

Tuesday 5 December 2023 22:45 , Kelly Rissman

Long before the feud with Donald Trump, Megyn Kelly made plenty of headlines in her own right.

Kelly joined Fox News in 2004 and rapidly ascended the network’s ranks. “Her star was rising at Fox” and she seemed poised to become “the next O’Reilly or Hannity,” said Joe Muto, a former Fox News producer who later came out as the “Fox mole.”

After appearing on numerous programs, she hosted her own show, The Kelly File, from 2013 through 2017. She quickly became a household name — both because of her pointed reporting style and some notable controversies.

While covering the 2012 election, Kelly made headlines after essentially telling Bush’s White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove to face the facts after he challenged Barack Obama’s projected victory in Ohio. In 2013, she made waves again after claiming that both Santa Claus and Jesus were white, taking issue with a viral Slate essay that revisited the image of Santa.

Then, of course, in 2015, Kelly made headlines for her heated exchange with Mr Trump at the first GOP debate.

Trump to skip fourth debate in a row

Tuesday 5 December 2023 22:00 , Kelly Rissman

Wednesday’s forum will mark the fourth debate that the former president has skipped. He previously explained his decision to not participate in any of the GOP debates on Truth Social: “The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had.” Instead of attending the debate, Mr Trump will be hosting a private fundraiser in Florida, NBC News reported.

NewsNation will broadcast the debate at 8pm ET. It will be moderated by Kelly, NewsNation anchor Elizabeth Vargas and The Washington Free Beacon’s editor-in-chief Eliana Johnson.

Poll shows Donald Trump dominating GOP field as rivals sputter

Tuesday 5 December 2023 21:30 , John Bowden

Ahead of the fourth GOP debate in Alabama, Donald Trump is in his most comfortable polling position yet.

The ex-president remains atop the GOP field in a major way, having consolidated support from six in 10 Republican voters nationally according to a NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ poll released on Monday. Though Mr Trump will not appear this Wednesday for the debate held by NewsNation alongside his GOP fellows, his decision to skip the 2023-24 debate cycle appears to not have hurt his chances in the slightest.

Indeed, the poll shows few pieces of good news for his opponents. Mr DeSantis and Ms Haley are statistically tied, at 11 and 10 per cent respectively, while the former president’s base of support appears to trust him more on the most important issues to voters this year, including the economy.

Mr DeSantis, who has seen his campaign flagging for months, remains the second choice of a much wider segment of the party than any other candidate. But even that suggests that his base is more closely aligned with Mr Trump’s, and suggests that the former president’s support could surge even higher were the Florida governor to drop out.

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Ron DeSantis campaign chaos continues as super PAC ousts CEO after just nine days

Tuesday 5 December 2023 21:00 , John Bowden

Just over one month before a critical test for his campaign, Ron DeSantis is watching his presidential bid become mired in personal conflicts, disagreement on strategy and the shadow of two surging opponents who appear to be slowly bleeding his campaign dry.

On Sunday, CNN reported that his allied Never Back Down PAC — the vessel for outside spending in support of his bid and more barbed attacks against his opponents — was losing its CEO after just nine days on the job. Two other senior operatives are also out, according to CNN, with one source describing the incident as “firings”, according to the network.

The end of their service to Never Back Down comes following a profile of the sputtering DeSantis presidential movement in The Washington Post, which described the Florida governor’s bid as in “extraordinary turmoil”. Senior campaign staffers were described as “gloomy” by a close ally of Mr DeSantis, the Post reported.

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A high-profile debate headliner

Tuesday 5 December 2023 20:30 , David Bauder

In awarding the rights to televise Wednesday’s debate, the Republican National Committee chose the debate moderators. The one with NewsNation ties is Elizabeth Vargas, formerly of ABC News, who hosts an evening newscast on the network. Eliana Johnson of the conservative site Washington Free Beacon was also selected.

The headliner, though, is Kelly. Working with Kelly is a throwback for Grzech; they did debate prep together when both were at Fox. Kelly’s experience working debates during the 2016 Republican presidential nominating process shot her to fame through her feud with Trump.

Kelly signed a big free agent contract with NBC News but that didn’t work out, and she negotiated an exit when her 2018 suggestion that it was OK for white people to wear blackface on Halloween caused a furor.

She’s since remade herself as a podcast and radio star, much more publicly opinionated than before, and is taking a role as a debate moderator that has traditionally been filled by impartial journalists.

It’s not like Kelly hasn’t done it before. But, in her new job, she hasn’t been shy about offering opinions on the people who will be debating.

She’s criticized Ron DeSantis for taking on the Walt Disney Corp. in Florida and said of him during a debate in September on social media, “Seriously, Ron DeSantis, you do not need to smile the whole debate. Whoever told you that misled you.”

Kelly called Nikki Haley’s announcement of her presidential candidacy “cringy.” On X, formerly Twitter, she posted: “Is it just me, or has (Chris) Christie lost a little off his fastball?” She posted “you’ve got to be kidding me” in response to one of Vivek Ramaswamy’s X messages in October.

And during one of the debates on Fox, she posted, “I’m bored.”

“I think there’s an argument to be had about whether she’s a journalist anymore,” said Tom Jones, senior media writer at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank. “My concern if I was NewsNation is that Megyn Kelly is going to come in with her own agenda and turn this debate upside down.”

Jones said he admired how Kelly has remade her career, “but I don’t know if the job she does now necessarily qualifies her to be a moderator for a debate.”

Kelly, through a representative, declined an interview request.

It is a Republican debate, and there’s an argument to be made that figures in the conservative media would be more attuned to what potential GOP primary voters want to hear about. But could that also mean avoiding legitimate topics because they might make a Republican audience uncomfortable? To that end, Grezch said that questions about Trump, the missing debater and leader in the polls, are legitimate.

How NewsNation handles its moment in the spotlight becomes clear Wednesday night.

A network still seeking an audience

Tuesday 5 December 2023 20:00 , David Bauder

The debate is to air from 8 to 10 p.m. ET and will also be shown on the CW network, which like NewsNation is owned by the Nexstar Media Group. The CW will show it live in the eastern half of the country, and tape-delayed out West.

NewsNation took over for the old WGN America network in late 2020 and has tried to establish itself with personalities who made names for themselves elsewhere: Chris Cuomo from CNN, Dan Abrams of ABC News, Ashleigh Banfield from MSNBC and former Fox News host Leland Vittert.

Ratings suggest it’s still looking for an audience — and has a way to go. NewsNation averaged 99,000 viewers in prime time in November, compared to Fox News Channel’s 1.73 million, MSNBC’s 1.14 million, CNN’s 540,000 and Newsmax’s 207,000, the Nielsen company said.

The network bills itself as an unbiased alternative to competitors with more hardened partisan images. Abrams told the Hollywood Reporter that NewsNation’s sweet spot is the “marginalized moderate majority who don’t want hyper-partisan outlets.”

Critics, like the liberal media watchdog Media Matters, suggest NewsNation leans more right than down the middle. A Daily Beast writer who watched the network for a week this fall, Joe Berkowitz, had a similar view, writing that “left-leaning voices are heard on NewsNation rarely, briefly and cursorily — as if to tick a box.”

The network’s ranks include several Fox News alums, including Grzech and Chris Stirewalt, its politics editor. Former Fox executive Bill Shine is a consultant.

Grzech suggested that those critics haven’t watched NewsNation much. “I don’t see that. and it isn’t the experience I’ve had here at all,” she said.

The fourth GOP debate will be a key moment for the young NewsNation cable network

Tuesday 5 December 2023 19:30 , David Bauder

By airing the fourth Republican presidential primary debate scheduled for Wednesday — again, minus Donald Trump — the young NewsNation television network will almost certainly reach the largest audience in its history.

Yet with two of the three debate moderators associated with conservative media and not NewsNation, including podcast star Megyn Kelly, the event threatens to be at odds with the centrist image the network is trying to cultivate.

“I think it’s an amazing opportunity and allows us to have more people fully sample the network and see who we are and what we’re doing,” said Cherie Grzech, NewsNation’s senior vice president of news and politics.

Her advice to those who have doubts about how NewsNation can pull it off: Just watch.

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Democrat megadonor gives to Nikki Haley super PAC to help thwart Trump

Tuesday 5 December 2023 19:15 , Oliver O’Connell

Just a week after JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon urged even liberal Democrats to help Nikki Haley’s campaign to give Republicans an alternative to Donald Trump, one Democrat megadonor has done just that.

Reid Hoffman, the billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn, donated $250,000 to a super PAC supporting the former UN ambassador’s 2024 campaign to be the GOP nominee in 2024.

The New York Times confirmed the donation had been made with Dmitri Mehlhorn, a political adviser to Mr Hoffman.

Mr Mehlhorn told the outlet that the pro-Haley super PAC SFA Fund Inc was specifically asked if it would take money from a Democrat who actively supports President Joe Biden, and they said yes.

SFA Fund Inc is one of the biggest actors in the 2024 Republican primary race, having spent more than $33m on advertising and other expenses.

Its biggest contributors up to mid-2023 were Jan Koum, a co-founder of WhatsApp, who gave $5m, and the venture capitalist Tim Draper, who gave $1.25m.

Previously Mr Hoffman helped fund E Jean Carroll’s lawsuit against the former president when she sued him for rape and defamation. Mr Trump was found liable for sexual abuse and defaming Ms Carroll.

He also hosted a fundraiser for Mr Biden in California earlier this year; donated to vocal Trump foe Liz Cheney in 2022; and gave $3.35m to the Republican Accountability Project during the 2022 election cycle.

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VIDEO: 4 Republicans Qualify for Next Presidential Debate

Tuesday 5 December 2023 19:00 , Gustaf Kilander

Who qualified for the fourth GOP debate?

Tuesday 5 December 2023 18:30 , Gustaf Kilander

Four candidates have so far qualified for the fourth Republican primary debate, set to be hosted by NewsNation on 6 December.

Former Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and biotech entrepreneur and anti-woke author Vivek Ramaswamy have all qualified for the Wednesday night showdown at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

The debate will be moderated by former Fox News host Megyn Kelly, now of SiriusXM, NewsNation’s Elizabeth Vargas, and Eliana Johnson, the editor of the Washington Free Beacon.

The debate will be broadcast on NewsNation, a subscription-based network, and it will be streamed online on Rumble, the video-hosting site mainly used by right-wing voters. The first three debates were hosted by Fox News, Fox Business, and NBC News.

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Will Donald Trump participate in the debate?

Tuesday 5 December 2023 18:00 , Gustaf.Kilander

Former President Donald Trump has qualified for the debate but he’s not expected to attend. He skipped the first three debates.

The ex-president will instead attend a fundraiser for his Make America Great Again (MAGA) super PAC in Florida, he announced on Truth Social.

Mr Trump isn’t planning on counter-programming the debate with his own event as he has done previously, according to his campaign.

How do candidates qualify?

Tuesday 5 December 2023 17:45 , Gustaf Kilander

To qualify, candidates had to acquire 80,000 donors – at least 200 from 20 states and territories – and at least six per cent support in at least two national polls or one national survey and two polls from the early states – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.

Who will be participating in the fourth GOP debate?

Tuesday 5 December 2023 17:30 , Gustaf Kilander

Four candidates have so far qualified for the fourth Republican primary debate, set to be hosted by NewsNation on 6 December.

Former Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and biotech entrepreneur and anti-woke author Vivek Ramaswamy have all qualified for the Wednesday night showdown at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

How to watch the debate

Tuesday 5 December 2023 17:15 , Gustaf Kilander

The debate will be hosted by NewsNation – the subscription-based network will broadcast the showdown at 8pm on Wednesday night.

The debate will also be livestreamed on the video-hosting platform Rumble, which is popular among those on the right.

Megyn Kelly’s rise was tied to Trump. Can she shine at a debate without him?

Tuesday 5 December 2023 17:00 , Kelly Rissman

Megyn Kelly made headlines in 2015 when she confronted Donald Trump at a presidential debate. Now as the fourth GOP primary debate approaches, she could have another starpower moment as moderator — but it will have to be without the former president.

Kelly, a lawyer-turned-journalist, was moderating her first presidential debate when Mr Trump, a real-estate-mogul-turned-politician, was competing in his first GOP primary debate. In this potent interaction, their paths changed forever.

The exchange made her into something of a cultural icon and boosted her career, at least temporarily, while it set the tone for his soon-to-be successful campaign.

She is a lawyer, he’s in legal trouble. He was accused of sexual misconduct, while she was allegedly the victim of someone else’s. At almost every intersection, they are coming from opposite ends of the spectrum, but have each, separately, carved out a niche rightwing audience.

And when they come together, no one can turn away.

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Megyn Kelly’s career rose after high-profile Trump feud. Can she still break through?

What the GOP debate candidates have said about the Israel-Hamas conflict

Tuesday 5 December 2023 16:11 , Ariana Baio

The onset of the Israel-Hamas conflict was a major theme of the third Republican primary debate on 8 November, with candidates declaring their support for Israel in varying degrees.

Since the war began in early October, there have been disagreements regarding how the US should back Israel as an ally while also trying to protect the innocent Palestinians caught in the crossfire.

Candidates were under more pressure this time around because they were given more time to answer thoughtfully thanks to the dwindling number of participants who met the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) stricter criteria.

Just five candidates, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and ex-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, qualified for the third debate.

Former president Donald Trump, who technically qualified, refused to join his opponents on stage. Though, Mr Trump has still voiced his opinion on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Here’s what the GOP candidates have said about the war.

Was Ron DeSantis lacklustre campaign doomed from the start?

Tuesday 5 December 2023 16:08 , Gustaf Kilander

Ron DeSantis entered the Republican primary this spring as the preeminent challenger to former President Donald Trump and as the heir apparent taking on the old guard.

The Florida governor was “Trump without the baggage,” a far-right fighter ready to rumble with the “radical left” and govern more productively than the chaotic reality TV star, blustering real estate mogul and grievance-filled showman.

In a race against the oldest president in US history, being born in the late 1970s instead of the mid-1940s would also be helpful. Part of the thinking was that Mr DeSantis could win the White House by simply standing next to President Joe Biden on the debate stage and not looking old.

But was his floundering campaign always inevitable? Was Mr DeSantis always too awkward to be president?

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