U.S. presidential hopefuls go toe-to-toe over footwear at Republican debate

By Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) – Republican presidential candidates traded barbs at Wednesday night’s debate in Miami about foreign policy, the economy – and shoes.

Vivek Ramaswamy, a brash multimillionaire former biotech executive, took a swipe at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over his cowboy boots, echoing speculation the shoes contain hidden lifts to boost his height.

“Do you want a leader from a different generation who is going to put this country first or do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels?” said Ramaswamy, 38, an isolationist on foreign policy.

“Because you’ve got two of them on stage tonight,” he added, in an apparent reference to DeSantis, 45, and Nikki Haley, 51, a former ambassador to the United Nations and the only woman on the debate stage.

Cheney, former President George W. Bush’s vice president, was a foreign policy hawk.

Five Republican candidates took part in Wednesday’s debate. Former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the race, skipped it and held a rally across town.

Trump allies have relentlessly hammered DeSantis over his cowboy boots, suggesting that DeSantis has hidden lifts inside them. DeSantis has said the boots are standard boots from Lucchese, a Texas-based western style shoe maker.

DeSantis did not respond to Ramaswamy’s taunt.

Haley, who clashed with Ramaswamy several times during Wednesday’s debate, corrected him, saying she actually wears five-inch heels.

“I don’t wear them unless I can run in them,” Haley said. “They are not a fashion statement, they are ammunition.”

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Eric Beech; Editing by Ross Colvin and Howard Goller)