DeSantis, Haley say everything by saying nothing at all

by | Jan 10, 2024

In what could be described as a verbal pillow fight, Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley doled out repeated accusations of untrustworthiness during Wednesday night’s CNN debate while remaining unwilling to veer away from their rehearsed stump speeches — a rhetoric familiar to political observers for the past eight months.

As the debate swung into motion, DeSantis pressed play on a greatest-hits record that featured classics like “We beat Fauci,” “Midland over Moscow,” and “I’ve spoken with Iowans, visiting all 99 counties” without ever delving into what those quasi-catchphrases actually mean. How many times have we heard DeSantis espouse self-administered, arbitrary monikers like ‘ZuckerBucks’ over the years without actually telling his audiences what they are? Too many to count, and his presidential campaign is proving to be no exception.

The crux of DeSantis’ issue in appealing to voters of any broad scope was at center stage tonight as he put on a masterclass of empty words, failing to show potential voters what his vision for the country looks like.

Haley followed up DeSantis’ playlist by unveiling a smash single:, which she reminded the audience of more than 25 times. Similarly, people watching the debate were left in a state of apathy as Haley spent minutes of valuable speaking time attempting to refute diatribes meted out by DeSantis. With a half-dozen debate appearances under her belt, the former U.N. ambassador is defined by her public gaffes and accusations of catering to her donors, certainly not a recipe for success in any election.

Strife with tired repeatings utilized to avoid offering a qualified response to their questions, moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash were forced to ask DeSantis for a “point of clarification” several times across the first hour of debate after he skirted around simple yes-or-no questions, which former candidate Chris Christie called out the governor for during the last GOP debate.

Meanwhile, Haley seized the opportunity in the early minutes of the debate to retread her “DeSantis banned fracking” talking point that was debunked as ‘half true‘ by Politifact the first time she rolled it out.

As the two-participant debate stumbled into hour two, politicos were left to wonder whether the duo would be forced to repeat their tired mantras after running out of things to talk about. With a bevy of opportunities to bring up meaningful points of discussion, the participants instead opted to carefully dance around the multiple questions centered around beleaguered Donald Trump.

At first mention of the former President, both candidates jumped at the opportunity to make evident that “Trump did many things right,” or that they “agree with many things he did,” succinctly dissolving any form of deviation between Trump and the remaining candidate pool — something undecided voters are keen to know.

In doing this, Haley and DeSantis ostensibly morphed the primary race into a ‘Trump vs the others’ outlook, undoubtedly to be followed by public outcries that Trump is direlecting his duty as a candidate by spurning debate invitations.

The reality is that DeSantis and Haley are doing all of the heavy lifting themselves. Each time they offer platitudes to Trump, it only drives a stake further and further between him and whoever stands in second place.

This notion is particularly evident in the way that the Biden Campaign approached Wednesday’s events. According to the New York Times, it issued two press releases about the concurrent Trump town hall and zero about the GOP debate, meaning that the candidate likely representing Democrats for President felt the need to pay such little attention to the CNN debate that he instead opted to focus on a non-party sanctioned event hosting a candidate with nearly 100 indictments.

Last month, Christie reproached his fellow primary candidates for not challenging Trump during the fourth debate, likening the former president to Voldemort from the Harry Potter series. This criticism carried into Wednesday’s debate, albeit within a consolidated pool.

“We’ve had these three acting as if the race is between the four of us,” he remarked, also referring to Vivek Ramaswamy.

Simply put, tonight’s debate was a waste of time. Undecided voters were left with nothing new from either Haley or DeSantis and they only served to propel Trump’s domineering lead in polls across all 50 states. With the Iowa caucus just days away, don’t expect either to come within 15 points of Trump, nor be surprised if DeSantis suspends his campaign by month’s end.

This is an opinion piece. 


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