Republican candidates debate tonight in Miami. Here are the highlights. : NPR

Republican presidential candidates: former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramasamy and US South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott participates in the NBC News Republican Presidential Primary Debate for the Adrian Orsht Center. Miami-Dade County Performing Arts Wednesday.

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Republican presidential candidates: former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramasamy and US South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott participates in the NBC News Republican Presidential Primary Debate for the Adrian Orsht Center. Miami-Dade County Performing Arts Wednesday.

Joe Radle/Getty Images

The candidates for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination meet tonight in Miami for the third debate. NBC News will host the debate at the Adrian Orsht Center for the Performing Arts, airing from 8pm to 10pm ET.

This is the smallest slate of candidates ever on the platform. Five candidates have met the Republican National Committee’s bill of qualifications this time around: former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, US Senator Tim Scott and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who was in the first two debates, did not qualify this time. Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who appeared in the first debate, did not qualify for these last two events. Former Vice President Mike Pence is not on stage tonight, having recently dropped out of the 2024 presidential race.

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This will be the third debate in which former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the party’s nomination, did not attend.

As in the last two debates, Trump is doing some counter-programming. He’s holding a rally in nearby Hialeah, Fla.

Strongly supports Israel

It was the first debate since Israel was attacked by Hamas on October 7. Matthew Brooks, CEO of the Republican Jewish Coalition, took questions from the candidates about the Israel-Hamas conflict and anti-Semitism in America.

Before the debate, RNC Chairwoman Rona McDaniel said she expected the candidates to reaffirm the Republican Party’s unwavering support for Israel. The same is the case with five candidates. Additionally, on the college question, several candidates lambasted administrators for the anti-Semitism faced by college students and some Jewish students on campus. These answers are not just about Israel and Palestine; They also continued the story for a long time. Even before the attacks on Israel, higher education was one of the main targets of the Republican culture war.

The candidates filed their cases against Trump

The debate began with a simple question posed to all five candidates on stage: Why should you be nominated instead of Trump?

Candidates answered sequentially. Both DeSantis and Scott present some form of electability argument. DeSantis called Trump’s quote that Republicans would be “tired of winning” if he were elected president, saying he was “tired of losing.” DeSantis pointed to Tuesday night’s elections, in which Republicans often won poorly, and then said he knows how to win.

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For his part, Scott argued that the nomination could bring in independents and voters of color — voters the GOP has struggled to bring in in recent years.

But candidates should note that Trump remains popular in the party. Haley was careful not to bash Trump: “Trump was the right president at the right time,” she said. “I don’t think he’s the right president right now.” He made the case that he could raise the economy for the struggling people.

Amid war in the Middle East and Ukraine, Christie made the case that the nation needed a radical leader.

Then there was Ramaswamy, who attacked the moderators for being too generous in his mind from answering. Ramasamy argued that Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan, and Elon Musk should moderate the debate, and claimed (incorrectly) that the media “rigged the 2020 election.”

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