Four Republican presidential candidates squared off in Alabama Wednesday night in what was not only the smallest debate stage, but maybe the most heated.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley faced attacks throughout the night from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as the race for second place behind former President Donald Trump intensified.
"You have other candidates up here like Nikki Haley. She caves anytime the left comes after her, anytime the media comes after her," DeSantis said. "I did a bill in Florida to stop gender mutilation of minors. It's child abuse and it's wrong. She opposes that bill."
Haley shot back, saying the bill DeSantis passed actually fell short.
"He continues to lie about my record," she said. "I actually said his 'Don't Say Gay' bill didn't go far enough because it only talked about gender until the third grade."
However, it wasn't just Haley and DeSantis sparring. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy clashed as well, with Christie defending Haley from Ramaswamy's attacks.
"This is a smart, accomplished woman," Christie said of Haley. "You should stop insulting her."
"Do everybody a favor," Ramaswamy responded. "Just walk yourself off that stage, enjoy a nice meal, and get the hell out of this race."
GOP front-runner and former President Trump skipped the debate like he has done the previous three, electing instead to do a televised town hall this week in Iowa. While polls show him leading by 30 points in the state, the final weeks before the Iowa caucuses have historically proven to be volatile.
In 2015, Ted Cruz only had 10% support in the months ahead of the caucus. He would go on to win in February.
Meanwhile, Christie and DeSantis came Wednesday night with some of their sharpest attacks against the former president to date.
"He is unfit," Christie said. "This is a guy who just said this past week that he wants to use the Department of Justice to go after his enemies."
DeSantis honed in on Trump's age.
"The idea that we're going to put someone up there that's almost 80 and [to think] there's going to be no effects from that," he said. "We all know that that's not true."
However, with just six weeks until the Iowa caucuses, the remaining candidates are running out of time to gain ground against the former president.
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