The top contenders in the Republican presidential primary — minus the most important one — will face off Wednesday night in the first debate of the 2024 race. The debate will provide the candidates, many who are relatively unknown to voters, an opportunity to refine their message and to test their attacks on rivals, hoping to deliver a zinger to stand out in a crowded field.
Those statements may include exaggerations or outright misinformation about a host of subjects, like inflation, immigration, foreign policy and cultural issues. The candidates’ stump speeches and previous statements offer a glimpse of what the debate audience might hear.
Here is a sampler of the kind of exaggerations, misleading statements and half-truths that could come up.
“We should discuss why he promised to build a wall across the entire border and completed 52 miles of new wall in four years. At that pace, he’d need 110 more years as president to finish the wall.”
This is partially true.
Mr. Christie has made targeting former President Donald J. Trump — the front-runner for the Republican nomination, who is not attending this debate — central to his campaign and specifically criticized him for supposedly not fulfilling his campaign promises while in office.
It is true that Mr. Trump said throughout the 2016 cycle that he would build a wall along the border and make Mexico pay for it. Mexico has not paid for any wall construction.
However, Mr. Trump said he would build a 1,000-mile wall, not along the entire border as Mr. Christie has claimed. And while Mr. Christie’s 52-mile figure refers to one category of wall construction, the Trump administration built around 453 total miles of border wall starting in 2017, though most of the new barriers reinforced or replaced existing structures.
“In Florida, our crime rate is at a 50-year low. You look at the top 25 cities for crime in America, Florida does not rank amongst the top 25.”
This is partially true.
Mr. DeSantis has played up his record as Florida’s governor and what he sees as legislative successes there throughout his presidential campaign.
While Florida’s crime rate fell to a 50-year low in 2021, crime reporting was incomplete and provisional after a switch in how law enforcement agencies reported data. The crime rate that year included data from just 59 percent of agencies in Florida, leaving crime data for more than 40 percent of the state’s population unaccounted for, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
“Why was it last year that a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide? This is serious. We need to look at that. So let’s snap out of it. Boys go into boys bathrooms, girls go to girls bathrooms and if there’s something in between, go into a private bathroom.”
This lacks evidence.
Ms. Haley, the only woman in the Republican primary, has, like many candidates, leaned into issues involving gender identity and sexuality on the trail. Criticizing transgender athletes who compete in women’s sports has become one of her most reliable applause lines.
There is no scientifically proven link between suicidal ideation and trans people competing in sports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this year that teenage girls are facing elevated suicide rates. Medical experts have said that while there are many potential causes, no evidence points to increased awareness of L.G.B.T.Q. issues as a causal or contributing factor.
“The fact is, today abortion law in the United States is more aligned with China and North Korea than with Western nations in Europe.”
This is misleading.
Mr. Pence, the staunchest abortion opponent in the race, has frequently expressed support for a national abortion ban and called on other candidates to back a 15-week ban.
The majority of European countries have legalized abortion up to 10 to 15 weeks of pregnancy and allow for abortions past the gestational limit if the parent’s life is in danger. Many laws in those countries are more permissive than they appear on paper and allow for exemptions upon request.
China, in contrast, allows for elective abortions without specific gestational limits, but in recent years has said that it aims to reduce the number of “medically unnecessary” abortions. And it is unclear what North Korea’s laws are, given that the World Health Organization reported no documentation after 2015 on the procedure’s legality.
“There’s very little evidence of people being arrested for being armed (Jan. 6). Most of the people who were armed, I assume the federal officers who were out there were armed.”
This is false.
Mr. Ramaswamy has remained one of Mr. Trump’s most ardent defenders through his four indictments and said throughout his campaign that “systematic and pervasive censorship,” not Mr. Trump, was to blame for the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
The Justice Department reported that 112 individuals were charged with using a “deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer” and 104 were charged with entering a restricted area with a dangerous or deadly weapon as of Aug. 4. There is no way to know how many of the thousands there were armed, but Secret Service officials confiscated several hundred weapons that included knives or blades, pepper spray canisters, brass knuckles and tasers.
And Mr. Ramaswamy himself condemned Mr. Trump on X, formerly known as Twitter, after the attack: “What Trump did last week was wrong. Downright abhorrent. Plain and simple.”
“There have been more illegal encounters under Biden than the previous two administrations combined.”
This is false.
Mr. Scott, who has campaigned as a “happy warrior” with an optimistic message, has largely directed his criticism toward the Biden administration, particularly its handling of illegal border crossings.
Reporting of immigration data changed in March 2020 from tracking “apprehensions” to “encounters,” a broader range of expulsions enabled by the Title 42 border policy that allowed for quicker removals during the Covid-19 pandemic, making comparisons across administrations inconsistent.
But available data from U.S. Border Patrol showed that illegal immigration levels nationwide were still lower under Mr. Biden than under the Trump and Obama administrations combined. And PolitiFact reported that the Scott campaign used inconsistent metrics to back its claim.