MIAMI – Vivek Ramaswamy warned that he would be unapologetic at Wednesday night’s debate, and he was – leading to an intense moment when former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley called him “just scum.”
Just minutes after Ramaswamy first took the stage, the debate was about three women: Haley, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and NBC News’ Kristen Welker, who was one of the debate moderators.
Read updates from the live debate Here.
“We were struck down last night in 2023. And I think we need to be accountable in our party,” Ramaswamy said of last night’s elections in Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky, where Republicans suffered losses. “By the way, Ronna, if you want to come on stage tonight, do you want to look the GOP voters in the eye and tell them you’re resigning, I’ll give you my time.”
But Ramaswamy remained focused on Haley, and the most intense moment came when he went after her daughter. He said she joined TikTok despite Haley criticizing Ramaswamy in an earlier debate for using the app despite its ties to China.
“She made fun of me for actually joining TikTok when her own daughter has actually been using the app for a long time,” he said.
“Get my daughter out of your voice,” Haley scoffed.
“Just scum,” she added.
The attack came after Haley’s dig at Ramaswamy in the second debate went viral.
“Every time I hear you, I feel a little more stupid because of what you say,” Haley told him at the time.
After Wednesday night’s debate, Haley said: “Look, I’m a mother. But it’s not even the personal part – there are serious differences between me and him.”
Ramaswamy continued the war of words even after the debate.
“If you look at the last debates, you can ask her the same question,” Ramaswamy told reporters when asked about personal attacks. “I think in the last debate she could have said that she feels more stupid every time she hears me speak? Well, I think…she’s been exposed.”
Ramaswamy also jointly tackled Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on foreign policy during the debate, suggesting that Haley was pushing the U.S. toward “the mistakes of the neoconservative establishment of the past.” He asked the audience: “Do you want a leader from a different generation who will put this country first?” Or do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels?”
Ramaswamy then added, “In that case, we have two of them on stage tonight.”
Haley shot back shortly after. “First I want to say that these are five-inch heels.” And she added: “They are not used as a fashion statement, but as ammunition.”
Ramaswamy also attacked Welker during the debate, pointing to the 2016 election and “the corrupt media establishment” and then accusing her of participating in a “Trump-Russia collusion hoax” that she had been spreading on this network for years. Was that real or was that Hillary Clinton? invented disinformation? Answer the question. Go.
“He’s a supporter of women,” his wife Apoorva told NBC News after the debate. “I am a surgeon. I work, went to Yale and studied medicine, and he has supported me at every stage of my career. He is extremely friendly to women.”
NBC News asked Ronna McDaniel after the debate for a response to Ramaswamy and she said she wanted to keep the focus on Joe Biden.
But she added: “I will not focus on attacking other Republicans. I think it’s a symptom of some of the things we saw in 1922 with Republicans attacking other Republicans. I don’t think this is a successful strategy. That’s why I’ll focus on the border, fentanyl and crime – the issues voters want to hear about. And they really want us to run against the Democrats.”
Haley has risen in the polls, taking away DeSantis’ second place spot, which he had comfortably held for months. During Wednesday night’s debate, Haley was among the leading candidates who faced — and fended off — attacks from their rivals, according to NBC News’ tracker.