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From abortion to January 6: where each Republican candidate in the debate stands on big issues

Republicans vying for the 2024 party nomination are set to take the stage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Wednesday night for the first debate of the primary season.

The candidates will certainly throw punches at each other and at Donald Trump, who has a significant lead in polls but is skipping the debate. But it’s also a chance for each candidate to present their policy agenda and voice their stance on key voter issues such as abortion and aid to Ukraine.

Here’s where each candidate in Wednesday’s debate stands on issues such as abortion, immigration, the economy and continued aid to Ukraine.

Ron DeSantis

headshot of ron desantis

Abortion: DeSantis has supported bills restricting access to abortion – including a six-week ban in his own state of Florida – but has stopped short of saying he would support a federal ban.

Economy: In a recently released economic plan, DeSantis said he would cut individual taxes and slash government spending. He also pushed for “American energy independence” and a rollback of electric vehicles.

Immigration: As governor, DeSantis has enacted some of the country’s strictest laws against undocumented immigrants, including asking hospital patients to prove their legal status. He also made the controversial move to use public funds to send newly arrived migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in a political stunt. As president, he said he would eliminate the visa lottery and limit “unskilled immigration”.

Foreign policy: He opposes additional US involvement in Ukraine and has pledged to reduce economic ties with “communist China” and said the US would no longer “kowtow to Wall Street”.

January 6: DeSantis said it was “unfortunate” but “not an insurrection”.

More: The current governor of Florida and a former congressman was widely expected to be Trump’s main primary challenger. But his favorability among Republicans has taken many hits, starting with a glitchy Twitter Spaces event hosted by Elon Musk. He has frequently touted his opposition to gender-affirming care for trans people and other public health measures such as mask mandates.

Vivek Ramaswamy

headshot of Vivek Ramaswamy

Abortion: Ramaswamy told a crowd at the Iowa State Fair he is “unapologetically pro-life”. But his campaign earlier confirmed he would not back a national abortion ban.

Economy: The biotech entrepreneur wants to “unshackle” the energy sector, saying the US should abandon its climate goals to drive down energy costs and boost its GDP. He is also in favor of some corporate and individual tax cuts.

Immigration: Ramaswamy said he wants to deport “universally” and end birthright citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants, who would then be required to apply to become a citizen.

Foreign policy: Ramaswamy has criticized US aid to Ukraine, saying it is strengthening Russia’s alliance with China.

January 6: Ramaswamy condemned Trump the week after the January 6 attack but has walked back his criticism since then. Responding to a question for an Atlantic profile about what truly happened that day, Ramaswamy said: “I don’t know.” He has defended ex-president Trump across his four indictments.

More: Time magazine labeled Ramaswamy a “breakout candidate”. The political outsider has steadily climbed the polls since launching his long-shot bid as an “anti-woke” patriot.

Tim Scott

headshot of tim scott

Abortion: Scott, an evangelical Christian, is staunchly anti-abortion and said he would support a national 15-week ban.

Economy: Scott supports tax cuts and stronger economic competition with China. As a senator, Scott championed legislation establishing “opportunity zones”, which are meant to increase economic development in low-income areas by incentivizing private investment, though critics say residents may not benefit from gentrification.

Immigration: He is in favor of a wall along the US southern border to curb illegal migration and drug trafficking.

Foreign policy: He broadly supports continued US aid to Ukraine and said Biden has not done enough. But some conservatives think he’s soft on China.

January 6: Scott said he doesn’t believe the 2020 election was stolen and does not blame Trump for the violence at the Capitol.

More: The South Carolina senator, who is the only Black Republican in the Senate, is an outspoken critic when it comes to teaching kids about race and gender in schools and has said: “America is not a racist country.”

Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley headshot

Abortion: The only woman on the debate stage, Haley is anti-abortion but has also called a federal abortion ban “unrealistic”.

Economy: Haley wrote in an op-ed that she opposes raising the national debt limit and would “veto spending bills that don’t put America on track to reach pre-pandemic spending levels”.

Foreign policy: The former US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, Haley has labeled the Chinese Communist party an “enemy” and criticized Trump for trying to befriend the Chinese president, Xi Jinping.

Immigration: Haley has vowed to tighten security at the US-Mexico border and add 25,000 patrol agents, as well as require companies to verify employees’ status online – which she signed into law in South Carolina as governor.

January 6: Haley has called January 6 a “terrible day” and said Trump “went down a path that he shouldn’t have” in an interview with Politico.

Chris Christie

Chris Christie headshot

Abortion: He has said he would not support a federal abortion ban.

Economy: The former New Jersey governor has targeted “excessive government spending” as the reason for inflation and floated cuts to social security, including Medicare.

Foreign policy: Christie, who has aligned himself with the hawkish, tough-on-China-and-Russia camp, visited the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a surprise trip earlier this month to affirm his support for continued US aid.

Immigration: Christie said “immigrants are pouring over the border” in an attack against Trump’s campaign promise to build a border wall.

January 6: Christie, who was in the running to be Trump’s VP after dropping out of the 2016 presidential race, is now Trump’s loudest critic. He broke with Trump over the January 6 Capitol attack, calling Trump a “coward” for not joining rioters.

Mike Pence

Mike Pence headshot

Abortion: The former vice-president, an evangelical Christian, is the loudest anti-abortion candidate and has condemned his opponents for refusing to back a six-week abortion ban.

Economy: Pence has said his top priority is boosting the US economy and has called on the Fed to ditch its dual mandate – keeping employment high and inflation low – to focus solely on reducing inflation. He has also advocated for cutting social security benefits.

Foreign policy: Pence has advocated for continued US aid to Ukraine and met with Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a surprise visit in June.

Immigration: He has blasted the Biden administration’s immigration policy, describing a “stampede” from Central and South America, and has vowed to finish the border wall that began under Trump.

January 6: Pence has campaigned heavily on his refusal to aid Trump in his effort to stop the certification of electoral results and has repeatedly condemned his ex-boss for his role in the Capitol attack.

Doug Burgum

Doug Burgum headshot

Abortion: Burgum signed a law banning nearly all abortions in North Dakota but said he would not support a national ban.

Economy: The governor of North Dakota, who is also a wealthy businessman, has touted North Dakota’s record as an energy-producing state and said he would prioritize growing the country’s tech and energy sectors.

Foreign policy: Winning the “cold war with China” is a key pillar of Burgum’s message to voters.

Immigration: Burgum said Biden hasn’t done enough to secure the US-southern border and supports stricter restrictions on migration.

January 6: Burgum called for a stop to the violence at the Capitol on January 6 but said he thinks it’s time to “move on”.

Asa Hutchinson

Asa Hutchinson headshot

Abortion: As governor of Arkansas, Hutchinson signed a near-total abortion ban and said he would support a national ban.

Economy: He has floated extreme measures to balance the federal budget and reduce debt including cutting the federal non-military workforce by 10%.

Immigration: Hutchinson supports harsh restrictions on immigration.

Foreign policy: He said he would not cut economic ties with China but has advocated for more aggressive action to counter China’s threat against Taiwan. Politico describes Hutchinson’s foreign policy as a “compassionate internationalism” of the past.

January 6: He said January 6 “disqualifies” Trump from running for president.


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