BY NICHOLAS RICCARDI AND STEVE PEOPLES
WASHINGTON (AP) — As they face an increasingly urgent task to emerge as a clear alternative to former President Donald Trump, five Republican presidential candidates gathered Wednesday for the party’s latest debate.
Trump, the overwhelming front-runner in the race, skipped the event, as he has the first two, citing his polling advantage. There was no shortage of noteworthy confrontations on stage, as the participants debated the Israel-Hamas war, the future of abortion rights and Trump himself.
But with the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses approaching, it seemed unlikely that the debate fundamentally changed the presidential nomination fight.
Here are some debate takeaways:
The foreign policy debate
Wednesday marked the first time the presidential candidates gathered on a debate stage since war broke out between Israel and Hamas, resulting in a sharper foreign policy conversation compared to previous forums.
The contenders were unified in offering robust support for Israel and bemoaned antisemitism, especially on liberal college campuses. But they said virtually nothing about protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza.