Tuscaloosa was proud to host the fourth GOP primary presidential debate Wednesday night, even if the city and state didn't come up much in the two-hour firefight.

Mayor Walt Maddox said yesterday that the city's role was to be "best-supporting actor" while NewsNation and the University of Alabama partnered on the lion's share of debate execution.

While Tuscaloosa shined in that role as it relates to the allocation of manpower, none of the questions involved the city specifically and none of the candidates mentioned it in their answers.

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Alabama came up occasionally, but not always in the best light.

Chris Christie, for instance, was less than glowing in how he talked about Senator Tommy Tuberville as he argued parents, not the government, should be making decisions about whether or not to seek gender-affirming medical procedures for minors.

"As a father of four, I believe there is no one who loves my children more than me. There’s no one who loves my children more than my wife. There’s no one who cares more about their success and health in life than we do," Christie said. "You look at these jokers down in Congress, it takes them three weeks to pick a speaker and up until two days ago, they couldn’t promote somebody in the military in the United States Senate who earned their new rank, and we’re going to put my children’s health and my decisions in their hands for them to make those decisions, for Joe Biden to make those decisions for me and for my wife?"

The "joker" holding up those promotions was Tuberville, and while no one in Tuscaloosa dove on stage to defend the former Auburn football coach, coming after the Senator in the state he represents was interesting political strategy.

Host Elizabeth Vargas noted that fentanyl has killed more than 1,000 people in Alabama in the last year, and Judicial Watch's Tom Fitton later prefaced a question about election integrity with a reference to our state's requirement of photo identification to vote.

Tuscaloosa Prepares To Host Fourth Republican Presidential Debate
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The candidates - Christie, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy - also did not mention the University of Alabama, who appeared to be adept hosts for the highly watched debate.

Haley bemoaned the influence of foreign funding on American universities, which she blamed for "pro-Hamas" protests on campuses this year.

"We have got to get foreign money out of our universities," the former South Carolina governor said. "You’ve got Arab money, you’ve got Chinese money, you’ve got others. We need to go to every university and say, 'You either take foreign money or you take American money, but the days of taking both are over.'"

And DeSantis suggested institutions like UA should be made to "back" student loans so they have skin in the game for making more profitable members of society.

"Another thing that’s burdening young people are these student loans. Now, I don’t support having a truck driver having to pay a student loan for someone that got a degree in gender studies. That is wrong, we should not have taxpayers do that," the Florida governor said. "What I’m going to do though is I’m going to get to the root cause of the problem. These student loans are going to be backed by the universities because they need to have an incentive to produce gainful employment for people. They should not be indulging in ideological studies. They should be focusing on things that work."

And that was the extent of hyperlocal connections to the debate, which was often heated and contentious - Ramaswamy drew groans with a handwritten sign that simply read "NIKKI = CORRUPT" and insulted her experience and intelligence. Christie called Ramaswamy "an obnoxious blowhard."

Fourth Republican Presidential Debate Held In Tuscaloosa, Alabama
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Not present was former president Donald Trump, who enjoys a 40-50 point lead over the other Republican candidates in most polls. The first presidential caucus will be held in Iowa and are scheduled for Monday, January 15, 2024.

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