The third GOP debate, which took place on Wednesday night, was notable for two reasons. The first was that the field was winnowed down to only 5 candidates; Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Chris Christie. It was also the latest debate that wasn't attended by Donald Trump.
Despite his mounting legal problems, Trump still has complete control of the Republican party, which made the debate quite strange. ABC's Jon Karl made that point on Thursday morning while speaking with George Stephanopoulos.
The reporter noted, "Look, this was a debate — Nikki Haley had a very strong performance once again, Chris Christie tried to look presidential, pleaded for unity, DeSantis may have been slightly better than he was in the past," he said. "But this was a debate from another dimension. This was the Twilight Zone debate, where Donald Trump doesn't exist. He was barely mentioned, and, you know, as they fought each other, there's no sense of the reality that none of them is within 30 or 40 points of Donald Trump."
"Ever since 2016, when Donald Trump won the White House, Republicans have lost a series of races. Virtually every election cycle, you've seen Republican losses. But Ramaswamy put the blame on the party chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel. No mention of Donald Trump. But you know, look, basically I think that Nikki Haley is trying to get into a position where Donald Trump implodes and she is there to take the reins. You could see her in a general election debate. I think Republican voters are warming to her, but she's got to take down Trump somehow."