The third GOP debate will focus on Israel and foreign policy, but also on who can beat Donald Trump

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MIAMI (AP) – Foreign policy and The war between Israel and Hamas They are expected to be prominent in the third GOP primary debate on Wednesday, as a few candidates seek to narrow their numbers Donald Trump Leadership without being able to challenge the former president personally.

Trump will Once again skip the discussion in MiamiInstead they marched in a nearby suburb. He says he will not participate because of his large lead in national and early state polls.

As voting begins in Iowa in January, no one has yet been able to shake it Trump’s control of the Republican primaries. Many candidates They pursued each other in hopes of coming up with a viable alternative to the former president, emphasizing their differences on foreign policy But also tearing Trump apart for his criticism The Israeli Prime Minister claims that the group attacking Israel was “very smart”.

Republican strategist David Kuchel, who has advised several previous presidential campaigns, said that despite Trump’s absence from the stage, the debate provides an opportunity for someone like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to try to make an appearance.

“Even if he wasn’t on stage and all these candidates were competing for second place, I think it would be worth it,” Kuchel said. “Because if this race turned more quickly into a two-man race, who knows what the dynamic would be like?”

Although Trump has a lot of power, “you still have a lot of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire that are open to someone else,” Kuchel said.

However, Trump has so far maintained a significant lead despite the standoff Four criminal indictments And a A civil fraud case against his companies in which he testified in New York this week.

His election campaign has They worked to beat DeSantis in their shared home state She has said publicly that she wants to achieve big victories in early primary states to secure the nomination.

Competition Tensions between DeSantis and Haley have escalated in recent weeksWith Haley rising in a prominent poll in Iowa and gaining new interest from donors and voters. The two campaigns and allied political action committees have clashed with each other over the war in Israel and the U.S. relationship with China, with Republicans taking an increasingly hostile view toward Beijing.

The two candidates also disagreed over abortion rights, A.J The political challenge facing Republicans Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Abortion rights supporters He claimed new momentum on Tuesday After the elections in several states went in their favor.

In a memo distributed by DeSantis’ campaign this week to donors, top advisers to the Florida governor said their candidate is best positioned to deny Trump a landslide victory in Iowa and that other Republican challengers, including Haley, are at best spoilers in doing so. An effort that could hand Trump the nomination.

However, the Haley campaign asserted in a memo that DeSantis and Haley are in “extreme tension” in Iowa, without acknowledging Trump’s lead.

In addition to DeSantis and Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy will also appear on stage Wednesday.

Republican candidates strongly support Israel in its attack after the attack launched by Hamas on October 7, which killed more than 1,400 people.

DeSantis has used his official role as governor to show support for Israel. He received praise from some Democrats in the state. The state was authorized to transfer hundreds of Americans evacuated from Israel to the United States, I ordered public universities Dissolving the branches of the pro-Palestinian group Arrangements were made for assistance in sending arms, ammunition and other supplies To Israel.

Haley, also the former governor of South Carolina, She drew on her experience as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations Pretend to support the Israeli government. she has Ramaswamy rebuked forcefullya first-time candidate who has challenged some of the Republican Party’s traditional foreign policy positions, because he lacks experience and expertise.

Haley and DeSantis have also become frequent and outspoken critics of Trump in recent weeks.

Haley, In a letter last month Trump, for the Republican Jewish Coalition, criticized Trump’s compliments to foreign strongmen and described his style of “chaos, revenge and drama” as dangerous.

DeSantis, who has directly embraced many of Trump’s policies and sought to curry favor with some of his key supporters, has been wondering in recent days whether Trump “can call the balls to show up in the debate.” His campaign soon began selling two sets of golf balls for $18 in a box declaring, “Ron DeSantis has a pair” and “He showed up.”

The remaining three candidates – Christie, Scott and Ramaswamy – are taking different paths.

Ramaswamy He was run as a potential heir To Trump’s “America First” mantle. He said he wants the United States to avoid so-called “forever wars” and focus on China, while also telling the Republican Jewish Coalition that he “would love nothing more” than for Israel to put “the heads of the top 100 Hamas leaders on the ground.” “The bets and their alignment on the border between Israel and Gaza.”

Christie, former Governor of New Jersey, It has focused almost exclusively in the New Hampshire primary and became the most vocal Trump critic in the race.

Scott is hoping for a strong finish in Iowa, where… He’s courting white evangelical voters in the state And millions were spent on advertising leading up to the party conventions on January 15.

The two-hour debate will be moderated by NBC News anchors Lester Holt and Kristen Welker and conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt, who hosts a morning talk show for the Salem Radio Network.

Meanwhile, the overwhelming leader of the race will be in a stadium about 10 miles away from the debate in the heavily Latino city of Hialeah.

The Trump campaign suggested that the Republican National Committee stop holding debates and instead focus on supporting his campaign.

Senior advisers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita brought up Trump’s words Allegations of election fraud He said that if the party does not cancel the debates, it is “an admission to the grassroots that their concerns about voter integrity are not being taken seriously and that national Republicans are more interested in helping Joe Biden than ensuring a safe and secure election.”

The Republican National Committee did not respond to a message seeking comment.

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Prices reported from Washington. Associated Press reporter Meg Kennard in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on apnews.com

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