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Final 4 Trump Challengers Spar in GOP Debate - First Vote Less Than 6 Weeks Away

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Republican presidential candidates Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by NewsNation on Dec. 6, 2023, at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Voters in Iowa have less than six weeks to make up their minds before the first vote of the 2024 GOP presidential race gets underway. 

Although GOP frontrunner Donald Trump was missing from the debate stage, he still took fire from some candidates.

In a NewsNation debate with 39 days to go before the Iowa caucuses, sparks flew in Tuscaloosa, Alabama during Wednesday's fourth Republican debate.

"You can't stand up against child abuse," Florida Governor Ron DeSantis accused Nikki Haley during the debate. "How are you gonna be able to stand up for anything? That is the truth. We have it on video."

The former South Carolina governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley was on the hot seat Wednesday night.

"Nikki you were bankrupt when you left the UN," business entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy chimed in. "After you left the UN, you became a military contractor, you started joining service on Boeing whose back you scratched for a very long time and then gave four multinational speeches like Hillary Clinton and now you are a multi-millionaire. That math doesn't add up. It adds up to the fact that you are corrupt."

But Haley seemed unfazed by the night of attacks.

"Love all the attention, fellahs, thank you for that," Haley said responding to the barrage of attacks from her fellow candidates.

Haley's poll numbers have seen a surge in recent weeks, though she still places third in most polls and trails far behind Trump.

"In terms of these donors that are supporting me, they are just jealous, they wish that they were supporting them, but I'm not going to just sit there and deny that," Haley said.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie emerged as Donald Trump's fiercest critic on the debate stage, calling the former president a dictator and a bully and urging his fellow Republicans to denounce him.

"He started his campaign by saying that 'I am your retribution,'" Christie said. "Eight years ago he said 'I am your voice.' This is an angry bitter man who now wants to be back as president because he wants to exact retribution on anyone who has disagreed with him, anyone who has tried to hold him to account for his own conduct, and every one of these policies that he's talking about are about pursuing a plan of retribution."

One of the strongest moments for DeSantis came when asked about whether Donald Trump would be fit to run as president in a second term.

"I don't know how he would score on a test, but I know this: we have an opportunity to nominate someone and elect someone for two terms who is going to be spitting nails on day one of eight years and deliver you big results," DeSantis argued. "We should not nominate somebody who is almost 80 years old."

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who built his campaign around the idea that he's a public outsider, had a number of testy moments with his fellow candidates.

"Here's my issue with all three of my other colleagues on this debate stage: is that all three of them have been licking Donald Trump's boots for years for money and endorsements," Ramaswamy said.

The four candidates sparred over immigration, the Israel-Hamas war, the conflict in Ukraine, and China's growing menace around the world.

Notably absent once again, Donald Trump, who has skipped all four debates but still maintains a double-digit lead over his rivals.

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Born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and of Indian descent, CBN News’ Senior International Correspondent and Co-Anchor, George Thomas, has been traveling the globe for more than 20 years, finding the stories of people, conflicts, and issues that must be told. He has reported from more than 100 countries and has had a front-row seat to numerous global events of our day. George’s stories of faith, struggle, and hope combine the expertise of a seasoned journalist with the inspiration of a deep calling to tell the stories of the people behind the news. “I’ve always liked discovering & exploring new