Gov. Ron DeSantis gave his best debate performance of the 2024 election cycle on Wednesday night, capitalizing on a smaller participant pool to hone in and give weight to his campaign’s chief talking points.
Following criticisms of repressed, subdued performances in the first three debates, DeSantis returned to his bellicose media approach familiar to those in Tallahassee, aiming particularly at former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who has usurped the Florida Governor’s once-comfortable second place standing in key states such as New Hampshire.
The Governor perpetuated the notion that Haley is beholden to corporate interests, a claim DeSantis laid the foundation for on the campaign trail in recent weeks and juxtaposed himself by maintaining a populist ‘for the people’ stance.
“Her donors, these Wall Street liberal donors, they make money in China,” DeSantis said. “They are not going to let her be tough on China, and she will cave to the donors. She will not stand up for you.”
DeSantis was not immune to attacks, however, largely from Haley, but also to those doled out by former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who castigated him for his supposed non-answers to questions pertaining to Former President Donald Trump’s fitness to potentially hold office for a second term.
Trump, the heavy favorite to secure the Republican Party’s nomination, was absent from the debate.
As questioning began, DeSantis led off the debate, hosted by News Nation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, by lambasting the very polls that place Haley ahead of him, contending that they collectively hold a poor track record through reference of the expected red wave during last year’s midterm polls that largely evaporated.
“The voters actually make these decisions, not pundits or pollsters,” quipped DeSantis. “I’m sick of hearing about these polls because I remember those polls in November of 2022. They said there was going to be a big red wave -It was going to be monumental, and that crashed and burned.”
The Governor also maintained a stance in strong support of Israel — a recurring principle matter for his campaign since the Oct. 7th attacks conducted by Hamas — by pledging to not accept refugees from Gaza, as well as opposing U.S. tax dollars given in assistance to Gaza that could indirectly assist the terrorist group.
“This [Biden] administration is trying to hobble Israel from being able to defend itself,” DeSantis told the moderators. “They have a right to eliminate Hamas and win a total and complete victory.”
DeSantis went on to amalgamate with entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy to hit Haley on statements she gave to national news last month that expressed support for stripping anonymity on social media platforms and internet services at large. Haley defended her statements as a ploy to wash social media services of bots.
“You can roll the tape,” said DeSantis. “She said I want your name. She got massive blowback, and rightfully so,” with Ramaswamy adding that “She absolutely said it.”
DeSantis then went on to hammer Haley on her — as he insinuated — dubious record when it comes to Chinese relations, framing the gubernatorial period of her political career as pro-CCP.
“As a result of Haley’s coziness toward the communist country — which Haley hailed as a “friend” in a 2014 letter — Chinese capital investment in South Carolina doubled during her tenure, while companies tied to the CCP received 1,500 acres of land,” DeSantis’ campaign sent to members of the media in a post-debate presser.
Given that there are no coincidences in politics, DeSantis’ spree of verbal warfare towards Haley adheres to that mantra, as the Floridian sees himself beginning to trail her in polls, and at a proliferating rate.
In a recent Washington Post/Monmouth University poll, Haley surged ahead of DeSantis in New Hampshire, positioning herself as the primary challenger to Trump. The former president leads the field with 46 percent, while Haley stands at 18 percent, significantly ahead of DeSantis, who trails at 7 percent.
DeSantis’ growing campaign expenditure towards political advertisements has also raised eyebrows in the media, with financial documents showing that he has outspent Trump, Haley, and the incumbent Joe Biden, culminating in minimal poll movement.