‘Blowhard,’ ‘fascist,’ ‘Voldemort’: Attacks get personal at fourth Republican debate

By Gram Slattery

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (Reuters) – Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy “the most obnoxious blowhard in America.”

Ramaswamy said former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is “the only person more fascist” than Democratic President Joe Biden. Later in the fourth Republican presidential debate on Wednesday, he waved a handwritten note reading “Nikki = Corrupt,” as the audience audibly groaned.

The four candidates on stage in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, showed little reticence in attacking each other in what could be their last face-off before the Iowa caucuses, which kick off the 2024 Republican presidential nominating contest in less than six weeks’ time.

Christie and Ramaswamy, in particular, did not hold back on the insults during fiery exchanges.

Ramaswamy, who sits in fourth place in most national polls and has frequently attacked his rivals at previous debates, was particularly acid.

At one point, he appeared to poke fun at Christie’s weight, while referencing a past scandal in which allies of the former governor closed a bridge to exact retribution on political rivals.

“Chris, your version of foreign policy experience was closing a bridge from New Jersey to New York,” Ramaswamy said. “So do everybody a favor, just walk yourself off that stage, enjoy a nice meal and get the hell out of this race.”

All the candidates on stage were keenly aware of the need for a breakout moment that will help them eat into frontrunner Donald Trump’s more than 40-point-plus lead in most polls. If that meant hitting low, so be it.

In a discussion about foreign policy, Ramaswamy said he was happy to get his three-year-old son to help Haley find Israel on a map.

Haley accused both Ramaswamy and DeSantis of lying several times during the debate but tried to stay above the fray.

“No, it’s not worth my time to respond to him,” she said at one point when asked if she wanted to respond to Ramaswamy’s accusation that she was corrupt.

Christie rebuked Ramaswamy for insulting Haley’s intelligence, but that not did not stop the former New Jersey governor from disparaging Trump.

Decrying the reluctance of his rivals on stage to publicly criticize Trump, Christie compared the former president to Voldemort, the fictional wizard from the Harry Potter series who is so evil people are afraid to utter his name.

“Voldemort – he who shall not be named,” Christie said. “They don’t want to talk about it.”

(Reporting by Gram Slattery, editing by Ross Colvin and Deepa Babington)