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Tim Scott invites Jewish students to third Republican debate

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Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina has extended invitations to more than 20 Jewish students from his state and across Florida to attend the third GOP presidential debate, his campaign said Wednesday.

Following weeks of highlighting an increase in antisemitism on the campaign trail, Scott has invited students spanning from high school to college age, representing the University of South Carolina, University of Miami, and a local South Florida high school to attend the Miami debate and witness candidates on stage.

"As hate and antisemitism proliferate on college campuses across our country, it is more important than ever to educate the minds of our next generation with thoughtful debate and discussion," Scott said in a statement on Wednesday. "I look forward to sharing my optimistic vision for our country with these students and all Americans. Together, we will stand against hate and lead our nation into the next American century." 

The debate in Miami is the third for the Republican candidates, although the frontrunner, former President Donald Trump, will be skipping it again. The number of candidates on stage has shrunk to just five, with Scott being joined by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.

Scott was the first of the Republican candidates to announce a strategic campaign move prior to the GOP debate, which, coincidingly, marks the inaugural occasion of a Jewish group cosponsoring a national debate. The event is a collaborative effort with the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Following Scott's announcement, DeSantis's campaign said he invited several of the passengers on flights the state arranged through a private company to bring back Americans in Israel. 

DeSantis will participate in a prayer with pastors before the debate, and then attend an after party with supporters hosted by the super PAC backing him "Never Back Down," the campaign said. 

Since the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and amid growing incidents of antisemitism in the U.S., the Republican campaigns have been pushing to show their support for Israel. 

In response to Scott's invite, Ramaswamy said in a statement, "We aren't inviting people based on race, religion, ethnicity or any class, people who love this country!"

David Moryossef, a student from the University of South Carolina said, "I am grateful for the opportunity provided by Senator Scott for my peers and I to witness history. The horrific attacks by Hamas on Israel and subsequent anti-semitic demonstrations showcase the need for principled leaders." 

As a reaction to the Biden administration's call to negotiate a temporary "pause" of attacks and facilitate humanitarian aid to Gaza, Scott has publicly criticized these efforts and opposed sending aid. Instead, he has proposed the deportation of foreign national students and introduced legislation aimed at revoking Pell grants from universities that fail to curb campus protests against Israel.

Aaron Navarro contribued to this report.

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