Republican Presidential Debate Heats up as Haley and Desantis Fight for Runner Up

Amidst a heated Republican presidential debate, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis clashed on policy, personal attacks, and foreign affairs, in their fierce battle for second place in the Iowa caucus. Here’s the full story.

The Race for Second Place

The ongoing debacle of the 5th Republican presidential debate was characterized by fiery exchanges between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, as it had been in the previous four debates. The notable absence of frontrunner and presumed nominee Donald Trump created an opportunity, however small, for the remaining candidates to make their case to voters ahead of the Iowa caucus.

The disappointing, if eventful, clash between Haley and DeSantis took center stage, with both contenders struggling for recognition in a battle still dominated, and mocked, by Donald Trump.

Donald Trump’s decision to skip this and all other debates, opting instead for a town hall hosted by Fox News, showcased his disdain of the primaries and the other candidates he is supposedly running against.

His absence left room for the runners up to struggle for attention, particularly Haley and DeSantis, who traded barbs throughout the evening. 

Rapidly Dwindling Options

The RNC’s surprise decision to narrow the field by not hosting additional debates left only three candidates—Haley, DeSantis, and Trump—meeting the stringent criteria set by CNN. Chris Christie, a vocal Trump critic who did not have enough support in the polls to make the cut for this debate,  was caught on a hot mic at a different event before the exchange had even begun.

In an audio broadcast streamed on the campaign’s live feed, Christie was heard to say, “She’s going to get smoked. She’s not up to this.” This is particularly ironic, as Christie dropped out of the race altogether on Wednesday due to lack of support.

DeSantis and Haley, though aligned on many Republican issues such as the economy, engaged in a war of words over foreign policy.

DeSantis decried Haley for “running to do her donors bidding,” an interesting line of attack considering the rate at which DeSantis own donors seem to be abandoning a rapidly sinking ship. Hayley, not to be outdone, called DeSantis a “habitual liar,” proving the old adage that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. 

Attacks on Immigrants

DeSantis strategically targeted Haley’s conservative record, highlighting perceived shortcomings on issues like China and immigration. Despite attempts to differentiate themselves, both candidates vied to articulate robust opposition to increased immigration, with both advocating for a crackdown on so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ and illegal immigration.

DeSantis sought to distance himself from Haley by criticizing her previous statements advocating for the humanization of immigrants. He invoked the xenophobic and inaccurate notion that all immigrants are dangerous criminals. According to DeSantis, a Haley presidency would be “like having the fox guarding the hen house.” Regarding undocumented immigrants, DeSantis asserted “They all have to go back.”

DeSantis subsequently challenged Haley’s 2020 Twitter post in which she characterized George Floyd’s death as “personal and painful for many.” George Floyd was a black man murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020, who’s killing galvanized anti racism demonstrations in America and around the world.

DeSantis contended that Iowans and individuals outside Minnesota had “nothing to do with” the police killing. In response, Haley defended her statement, pointing out the ongoing prevalence of anti-Black violence in the United States.

She also stood by her actions as the governor of South Carolina, highlighting her decision to take down the Confederate flag, following the racially motivated attack by white supremacist Dylann Roof on a Charleston Black church, resulting in the tragic deaths of nine congregants.

There were no inquiries as to why the flag of an enemy of the United States, whose entire reason for existing was to continue the enslavement of black people, was still flying in the first place. 

Foreign Policy Disagreements

DeSantis and Haley clashed over their positions on aid to Ukraine and Israel, one of the few issues where there could genuinely be some difference of opinion between the two. DeSantis, aligning himself with the pro-Trump faction of the Republican party, criticized support for Ukraine as a “UN way of thinking,” while Haley, previously the United States ambassador to the UN, defended continued military aid to the country. Haley contended, “To get a friend, you have to be a friend,” emphasizing her support for ongoing military aid to Ukraine.

The candidates navigated questions about Trump’s role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election with all the grace of a bull in a china shop. Both candidates played lip service to efforts to preserve American democracy, whilst being careful to never call out the presumptuous nominee, Trump, who is currently under investigation for inciting the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

Haley cautiously addressed discrepancies in the election, emphasizing the need for “election integrity” bills. DeSantis, while acknowledging discrepancies, downplayed Trump’s actions as mostly “word vomit” on social media.

Participation Trophies for Both

As the Iowa caucus looms, DeSantis and Haley find themselves in a fierce battle, most likely to see who can be the runner up with the most votes.

With Trump maintaining a commanding lead in polls, the candidates made a valiant, if ultimately doomed, effort to mark themselves out as a rival for the former President.

DeSantis, with an exhaustive campaign effort in Iowa, aims to overcome his many previous setbacks, while Haley seeks to build momentum, aided with the backing of several influential conservative groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, which has generous funding from the Koch brothers.

The upcoming Iowa caucus will decide which of these two gets to ultimately be declared second place to the all pervasive Donald Trump. 

The post Republican Presidential Debate Heats Up As Haley and DeSantis Fight For Runner Up first appeared on Edge Media.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Aaron of L.A. Photography.

Grant Gallacher is a seasoned writer with expertise in politics and impactful daily news. His work, deeply rooted in addressing issues that resonate with a wide audience, showcases an unwavering commitment to bringing forth the stories that matter. He is also known for satirical writing and stand up comedy.

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