MIAMI (WCBD)- Five Republican candidates — including South Carolina’s Nikki Haley and Tim Scott — took the stage in Miami for the third GOP presidential debate Wednesday night.
Haley, the former S.C. Governor and United Nations ambassador, entered the night with a target on her back as she gains momentum in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Another strong debate performance, she hoped, could give her a boost over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
For Tim Scott, who has struggled to break out of the pack, the debate served as a chance for the senator to distinguish himself from his opponents.
Former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the race, did not participate, instead opting to host a rally in nearby Hialeah, Fla.
Here are three takeaways from the night:
Haley, Ramaswamy clash again
During a question from moderator Lester Holt about what he would tell Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid the ongoing war with Hamas, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy took aim at Haley, calling her “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels.”
“She becomes a military contractor. She joins the board of Boeing…and is now a multimillionaire. I think that’s wrong when Republicans do it or Democrats do it,” he said. “Do you want a leader from a different generation who’s going to put this country first or do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels?”
A few minutes later, Haley shot back at the entrepreneur, “I’d first like to say, they’re five-inch heels — and I don’t wear them unless you can run in them.”
“The second thing I will say: I wear heels, they’re not for a fashion statement, they’re for ammunition,” she continued.
It wasn’t the only time Haley and Ramaswamy sparred during Wednesday’s debate.
Responding to a later question about TikTok, Ramaswamy attacked Haley for advocating for a ban while her daughter uses the app saying “You might want to take care of your family first.”
Boos could be heard from the audience following Ramaswamy’s comment as Haley shot back, “Leave my daughter out of your voice.”
“You’re just scum,” she added moments later.
Scott leans on conservatism
Scott, who entered the debate needing a spark amid straggling national polling numbers, aimed to position himself as the most conservative candidate on the stage.
“We need a forward-looking, optimistic conservative warrior who can unite our party and beat Joe Biden in a landslide and save America…I don’t believe Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley can do that,” Scott said at the Florida Republican Party’s “Freedom Summit” Saturday.
The strategy appears to align with his campaign’s recent decision to go “all in on Iowa” by shifting resources and money away from New Hampshire and South Carolina. According to NBC News, sixty-four percent of voters in the 2016 Iowa caucus identified as evangelical or born-again Christians.
Asked why he should be the Republican presidential nominee, Scott said he would help restore ” faith in God, faith in each other, and faith in each other.”
The senator’s Christian faith has played an integral role in his campaign since entering the race in May, with the senator often weaving quoted Scripture into his remarks.
Scott is routinely named by likely caucus participants as being among a handful of candidates under consideration. However, late-summer polls showed him receiving support in the single digits, far behind the Iowa front-runner, former President Donald Trump.
“We should turn back to faith, patriotism, and individual responsibility,” Scott said in his closing remarks. “I do not just want to win the battle against Joe Biden, I want us together to win the war, the war for our Christian, conservative values that changed my life.”
Scott challenges Haley on abortion
After Haley called for establishing a national consensus on the issue of abortion, Scott pressed her — and DeSantis — to declare whether they would back a 15-week federal abortion ban.
“I would encourage Nikki and Ron to join me at a 15-week limit,” he said. “It is in our nation’s best interest.”
It was one of the only times Scott invoked the name of one of his challengers on stage Wednesday night as both he and Haley worked to consolidate support in their home state.
Haley said she would support “anything that would pass” but argued there are not enough votes in favor of a 15-week ban in Congress.
“Tim, there was a bill last year. Lindsey Graham sponsored it. You didn’t even co-sponsor the bill,” she retorted. “When you first were interviewed on this…you wouldn’t even say you were for 15 weeks.”
“That’s just not true,” Scott chimed in.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.