5 Republican candidates spar at debate, while Trump holds a rally nearby. Follow live updates

Five candidates have taken the stage at a whittled-down third Republican presidential debate in Miami while front-runner Donald Trump holds his own event a short drive away.

What to know

What to watch during the Republican debate

How to tune in for the third GOP presidential debate

Trump looks to upstage the debate with a rally targeting South Florida’s Cuban community

Debate will focus on Israel and foreign policy — and who can beat Trump

Haley and Scott find common ground on Iran

They haven’t faced off directly, but the two presidential candidates from South Carolina are finding common ground when it comes to Iran, who Hamas has said helped plan and orchestrate its surprise attack on Israel last month.

Asked during Wednesday night’s debate if she supported U.S. military action against Iran, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said that “We need to go and take out their infrastructure,” adding: "Iran responds to strikes.”

Asked what he would say to assure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott seemed to agree, noting, “You have to cut off the head of the snake. And the head of the snake is Iran.”

'Do you want Dick Cheney in 3-inch heels'?'

Tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy is lashing out at former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley for her more hawkish foreign policy stance.

“Do you want a leader from a different generation who’s going to put this country first? Or do you want Dick Cheney in 3-inch heels? In which case, we’ve got two of ‘em on stage tonight,” Ramaswamy said, invoking the former vice president.

It was a dig at Haley — the only woman on stage — as well as DeSantis, who has been accused of wearing lifts in his boots.

Haley punched back, correcting Ramaswamy. “They’re 5-inch heels,” she said, adding: “I don’t wear ‘em unless I can run in ’em.”

Earlier, Ramaswamy also lashed out at Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel as he expressed dismay at Republican losses in Tuesday’s elections.

“We’ve become a party of losers,” he said, saying he would welcome her resignation.

GOP candidates voice support for Israel at debate

The Republican presidential candidates at Wednesday night's debate competed against one another to sound the toughest on Hamas.

Asked what they would tell Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he wages war on the militant group after its Oct. 7 attack, DeSantis replied, “’Finish the job once and for all with these butchers, Hamas.”

“’Finish them. Finish them,”’ said Haley, who cited what she said was her daily work on behalf of ally Israel as Trump’s U.N. ambassador.

Haley broadened the blame to Hamas supporter Iran, and to China and Russia for its economic ties with Iran, calling the three countries an “unholy alliance.”

“’Smoke those terrorists on his southern border,’’’ Ramaswamy relayed as his advice to the Israeli leader.

Trump takes stage shortly after debate begins nearby

Donald Trump took the stage at his rally about 20 minutes after the Republican presidential debate kicked off nearby.

Trump's rally was set to begin at 7 p.m., but he didn't end up speaking until around 8:20 p.m. Wednesday. Already by that time, his rivals at the debate had been asked to weigh in on why they were a stronger 2024 candidate than Trump.

Trump was introduced by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his former White House press secretary. She praised his courage, touted his record and called him “my former boss, my friend, and everybody’s favorite president.”

Sanders says Trump brought patriotism back to the country and would do so again.

“We need him to finish what he started eight years ago," she said.

Moderator asks audience to behave themselves

Moderator Lester Holt reminded audience members twice in the first 10 minutes to behave themselves, perhaps an early sign that NBC will run a tighter ship than Fox did in previous GOP debates, which at times got out of hand.

“Audience, let’s not do this,” Holt said as the crowd cheered.

NBC also set different rules for the debate than Fox, allowing candidates 90 seconds to answer questions instead of 60 seconds. Follow-ups are at the discretion of moderators and are not given to candidates just because their name was mentioned.

“Continued interruptions may result in loss of additional questions,” Holt said while introducing the rules.

Scott sticks to talking points instead of going after Trump

Sen. Tim Scott needs a breakout moment in the third Republican debate, but he has so far has been sticking to his talking points.

The South Carolina Republican on Wednesday night was given an opportunity by moderator Lester Holt of NBC News to contrast his candidacy with that of GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

But instead of drawing bright lines, Scott talked about his optimism for America’s future and his own personal narrative, which he says portrays the kind of leadership that American needs.

Candidates asked why they are stronger than Trump

The third Republican presidential debate opened with a sharp question about why the candidates on stage were stronger than Donald Trump, who has built a commanding early lead in the party’s 2024 primary.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis slammed the former president for skipping all the debates, saying he should be there answering tough questions like why he didn’t keep the promise to wall off the entirety of the U.S.-Mexico border and have Mexico pay for it.

DeSantis also said Trump promised the country it’d win enough to get tired of it, adding, “I’m sick of Republicans losing,” pointing to Democrats’ big night in many key races across the country in Tuesday’s election.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, called him “the right president for the right time,” but said he wasn’t now, chiding him for running up federal deficits.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy was even more blunt, calling Republicans “a party of losers.”

GOP candidates bash own party for 2023 election results

Candidates used their party’s poor performance in Tuesday’s elections as a punching bag at the start of the debate.

“We’ve become a party of losers,” Ramaswamy said.

“I’m sick of Republicans losing,” DeSantis said.

For each of them, it was a chance to pitch himself as the antidote to what ails Republicans. Ramaswamy promised to take on the establishment, while DeSantis bragged about his electoral record in Florida.

It’s time for the Miami matchup

The third Republican presidential candidate debate is officially underway in Miami.

It’s expected that candidates will be asked about a variety of topics, including abortion and the ongoing war in Israel following Hamas’ surprise attack last month.

Five candidates met the Republican National Committee’s qualifications to participate in the third matchup: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

As he has with previous debates, former President Donald Trump is skipping Wednesday night’s matchup, instead holding his own event a short drive away.

Wednesday night’s debate comes just one day after the 2023 off-year elections, in which Democrats notched a number of wins the party hopes might portend possible successes in other contests next year.

Thousands gather for Trump rally ahead of debate

Thousands have gathered to show support for former President Donald Trump at a rally in the Miami suburb of Hialeah.

Trump was joined by mixed martial arts fighter Jorge Masvidal and comedian Roseanne Barr, who led the crowd in a profane chant and called him a “MAGA-dor,” playing off his “Make America Great Again” slogan.

People showed up in red, white and blue clothes with MAGA hats and Trump 2024 flags. Some also carried the flag of Israel.

Dozens of supporters lined up earlier to get a copy of Trump’s photobook “Our Journey Together” signed by the former president’s son Donald Trump Jr.

Some speakers addressed the crowd in Spanish and English.

“I go to all Trump events,” said Paul Rodriguez, a Cuban American voter who wore a T-shirt bearing Trump's mug shot. “I hope common sense returns to America. Donald Trump speaks for us, while Democrats do it for corporations and other countries.”

Absent yet again, Trump gets some good debate night news

He won’t be onstage with his GOP rivals, but Donald Trump is getting some good debate night news.

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to bar Trump from the 2024 primary ballot under a constitutional provision that forbids those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office.

The ruling is the first to come in a series of lawsuits filed by liberal groups seeking to use Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to block the GOP front-runner’s candidacy by citing his role in the violent Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Democrats troll 2024 GOP hopefuls in lead-up to debate

Democrats are once again trolling the Republican candidates ahead of their debate.

The Democratic National Committee placed bilingual ads on billboards across South Florida and hired a mobile billboard truck to, in their words “call out their extreme MAGA agendas.”

The truck will be driving around the Republican National Committee debate venue, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, on Wednesday night.

The Spanish- and English-language ads cast former President Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner, as an extremist and a liar.

Trump will be holding his own event in nearby Hialeah.

Scott hosting Jewish high school and college students at debate

The ongoing Israel-Hamas war is sure to feature in discussion during Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate, and Sen. Tim Scott is bringing with him some students who might be particularly interested.

Scott’s campaign says the South Carolina Republican is hosting more than 20 Jewish students from the University of South Carolina, University of Miami and a local South Florida high school at the debate.

The Republican Jewish Coalition is one of the partners for Miami’s debate. Scott was among the GOP contenders who addressed the coalition’s leadership summit in Las Vegas.

Scott, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are taking part in the Wednesday night event.

The Associated Press