DeSantis, Haley to square off in CNN debate after Trump snubs invitation

by | Jan 2, 2024

Gov. Ron DeSantis will debate Nikki Haley one-on-one in a CNN-hosted GOP primary debate in Iowa, following Donald Trump’s decision to skip the event.

Gov. Ron DeSantis will have his one-on-one debate dreams fulfilled after all, as just he and fellow GOP primary candidate Nikki Haley will participate in CNN’s debate in Iowa on Thursday.

The debate, set to be moderated by Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, required candidates to have at least 10 percent support in three national or Iowa polls, including at least one poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers, to receive an invitation. Despite the Republican primary field remaining relatively crowded, only DeSantis, Haley, and Former President Donald Trump qualified.

Trump, however, has elected to forgo the CNN event, he announced on Tuesday afternoon, instead opting to partake in a Fox News town hall in Des Moines at the same time. The Former President has yet to participate in a GOP-sanctioned debate during the current election cycle, much to the chagrin of his fellow candidates.

“We understand Donald Trump is scared to get on the stage because he’d have to finally explain why he didn’t build the wall, added nearly $8 trillion to the debt, and turned the country over to Fauci,” said DeSantis campaign spokesperson Andrew Romeo on X. “If it would make the debate more inviting, we would gladly agree to make it a seated format where the former president would be more comfortable.”

In recent months, DeSantis and his affiliated staff expressed an interest in a one-on-one debate with Haley as she rapidly ascended in early-voting state polls. The pleas mirror a proliferating effort by the DeSantis campaign to target Haley, which arguably took root during the last GOP debate when DeSantis returned to his bellicose media approach familiar to those in Tallahassee.

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 in the most recent debate. “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.”

It can be expected that the Florida Governor will maintain similar rhetorical talking points, as evidenced by recent ad campaigns tying Haley to Hillary Clinton.

CBS News poll conducted last month among likely Iowa voters pegged DeSantis in second place, with 22 percent of the share of support and nine points ahead of Haley. Trump, meanwhile, maintained a domineering lead with 58 percent.

The same poll surveyed likely New Hampshire voters, another key primary state, and found DeSantis trailing Haley by 18 points with 11 percent. Haley drew 29 percent support, while Trump led all candidates with 44 percent.


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