During the third primary debate, which was the most recent matchup between the front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, personal assaults took center stage. Five of the six contenders engaged in acrimonious verbal sparring throughout the intense debate, which was punctuated by talks about the economy and foreign affairs.

At the center of the controversy was Vivek Ramaswamy, who made fun of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis by implying that he wears heels. Ramaswamy and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley clashed throughout the debate, with Haley calling Ramaswamy “scum” after he brought up her daughter’s use of TikTok, which is owned by China.

Although there were significant differences between the contenders over foreign policy, namely regarding how to deal with China, they also discussed issues like anti-Israel demonstrations and Ukraine. Donald Trump, the former president, decided not to participate in the discussion and to hold a rally in Hialeah.

The verbal spat began when Ramaswamy asked DeSantis if voters preferred a “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels” or a leader from a different generation. During the discussion, DeSantis and Haley clashed about China’s influence. Ramaswamy brought up a bill that dealt with Chinese land purchases and its exemption based on lobbying.

On TikTok, the candidates had contrasting views. Chris Christie argued for the app’s prohibition, noting the platform’s purportedly detrimental effects on American minds. Ramaswamy sparked controversy during the debate when he appeared to call Ukrainian President Zelensky a “Nazi,” bringing up the topic of Ukraine. Regarding how to handle anti-Israel demonstrations on college campuses, the contenders disagreed as well.

DeSantis used the occasion to attack Trump, stressing the necessity for the former president to clarify his position on a number of subjects. Christie, however, brought up the ongoing criminal charges against Trump, implying that a person facing legal troubles is unfit to lead the nation or the party.

The candidates’ differences, which ranged from personal jabs to policy disagreements, were on full display during the third Republican primary debate. This set the stage for an intense and ongoing competition for the party’s candidacy.