Republican presidential debate on NBC News

6:39 PM ET, November 8, 2023

Key things to know about the 5 GOP candidates who qualified for tonight’s debate

By CNN staff

Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy and Tim Scott.


All of the Republican presidential candidates are vying to face President Joe Biden in November 2024. But first, they compete in the GOP primaries and caucuses that begin in January to emerge as the party’s nominee.

Here are the key things to know about the five GOP candidates who qualified for tonight’s debate:

Ron DeSantis: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose penchant for culture clashes has led him to declare his state a place where “the woke go to die,” has launched a bid for president in May 2023. DeSantis said he’s running to “reverse the decline.” in America and to offer a new generation of leadership for the country. A tenacious leader who stretched the limits of executive power in his state, DeSantis rose to national prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic. He made Florida one of the first states to reopen schools and enacted measures to ban lockdowns, mask mandates and vaccine requirements. Prior to the governor’s estate, DeSantis represented Northeast Florida in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2013 to 2018 and was a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Nikki Haley: Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley launched her presidential campaign in February 2023, calling for a new generation of leaders in the Republican Party. Her campaign was heavily focused on economic responsibility, national security and strengthening the southern border. If successful in the primary, Haley would be the first woman and the first Asian American to be nominated by the Republican Party for president. She was first elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2004, and six years later she became the first woman elected governor of the Palmetto State and the youngest governor in the nation when she took office in 2011 She resigned midway through her second term in 2017 to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Donald Trump, now a contender for the Republican Party nomination in 2024. She served in that role until the end of 2018.
Tim Scott: South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, entered the presidential race in May 2023 touting himself as a principled conservative with an understated message of hope and optimism. Scott began his political career by being elected to the Charleston County Council in 1995. He later served a term in the South Carolina House of Representatives before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. In 2013, then- U.S. Governor Nikki Haley, now a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, appointed him to fill a vacant Senate seat, making him the first black man to represent the Palmetto State in the Senate.
Vivek Ramaswamy: Tech entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy launched his outsider campaign for the presidency in February 2023, focused on fighting “woke” ideology, exposing government corruption and bringing a younger generation of voters into the Republican Party. Ramaswamy, 38, is the youngest candidate in the Republican Party field. He found success in the private sector after founding Roivant Sciences, a biotech firm, before founding Strive Asset Management, an investment management firm that specializes in anti-wake asset management, refusing to consider the environmental, social and corporate governance or ESG factors when investing. He is the author of “Woke Inc.” and “A Nation of Victims.”
Chris Christie: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced his second presidential run in June 2023 at a town hall in New Hampshire, drawing a stark contrast to former President Donald Trump. On the campaign trail, Christie signaled his willingness to take on Trump head-on, repeatedly hitting the GOP front-runner on his looming legal troubles and foreign policy, among other key issues. Christie previously endorsed Trump after he dropped out of the 2016 GOP primaries and was a close adviser to the then-president during his 2020 re-election campaign. He has become one of the most vocal Republican critics of Trump after the former president’s false statements about the 2020 election and his subsequent attempts to overturn the results. Christie was elected governor of the Garden State in 2009, defeating Democratic incumbent John Corzine. He served two terms and left office in 2018 after overcoming the so-called Bridgegate scandal and the 2017 state government shutdown.

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