DeSantis, Haley Trade Barbs In Contentious GOP Debate
DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 10: Republican presidential candidates Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley participate in the CNN Republican Presidential Primary Debate in Sheslow Auditorium at Drake University on January 10, 2024 in Des Moines, Iowa. DeSantis and Haley both qualified for this final debate before the Iowa caucuses, while former President Donald Trump declined to participate and instead held a simultaneous town hall event live on FOX News.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republican presidential candidates Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley took part in a contentious primary debate at Drake University in Iowa on Wednesday night, taking shots at each other throughout the evening.

The GOP debate, hosted by CNN, featured only DeSantis and Haley on stage, the smallest debate yet in the Republican primary. It took place in Des Moines, Iowa, just days before the state’s caucuses on Monday.

The only agreements between the two candidates came when they addressed the absence of former President Donald Trump and slammed President Joe Biden’s policies. Both DeSantis and Haley said they wished Trump had appeared on stage with them as the candidates hope to upset the GOP frontrunner in the Iowa caucuses.

Much of the debate, however, centered on the differences between the Florida governor and the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Shortly after the debate began, the two traded barbs over their positions on the issues, accusing each other of flip-flopping and lying.

“You’re going to see the fact that [DeSantis has] switched his policies multiple times,” Haley told voters what to expect in the debate. “But every time he lies, Drake University, don’t turn this into a drinking game because you will be overserved by the end of the night.”

DeSantis quickly shot back, telling the crowd, “Nikki Haley has this tactic — if you hold her accountable to her record, first she’ll say ‘I never said that.’ Well, one good rule of thumb, if she says she never said something, that definitely means she said it. And then she’ll say ‘you’re lying, you’re lying.’ That means not only did she say it, but she’s on videotape saying it.”

“The reality is Nikki Haley is not somebody who has been willing to stand in and fight on behalf of conservatives,” DeSantis added.

A little later on in the debate, DeSantis slammed Trump, arguing that the former president failed to accomplish in the White House what he promised to do while on the campaign trail. Then the governor turned his attention to Haley.

“I think the difference between Nikki Haley and me … I debated the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, I thought he lied a lot. Man, Nikki Haley may give him a run for his money, and she may even be more liberal than Gavin Newsom is,” DeSantis said.

“As Republicans, you need somebody that is going to be in there and fight for you, and Nikki Haley, anytime the going gets tough, anytime people come down, she caves,” the Florida governor added. “When you need someone standing and fight[ing] for you, don’t look for Nikki Haley. You won’t be able to find her if you had a search warrant.”

Haley shot back at DeSantis later in the debate, criticizing him for how he has run his campaign and spent his money while he has fallen in the polls since announcing his candidacy.

“The best way to tell about a candidate is to see how they run their campaign, He has blown threw $150 million. I don’t even know how you do that,” said Haley. “He has nothing to show for it. He has spent more money on private planes than he has on commercials trying to get Iowans to vote for him.”

“If you can’t manage a campaign, how are you going to manage a country?” the former South Carolina governor asked.

The two candidates addressed multiple issues throughout the night, including abortion, illegal immigration, Ukraine, and Israel. Both Haley and DeSantis pledged to deport illegal immigrants and secure the border, but DeSantis warned voters about trusting Haley’s stance on immigration.


“That’s like having the fox guard the hen house,” DeSantis said. “She is on tape at the Aspen Institute. She’ll say she didn’t say it. She was chastising conservatives, saying it’s disrespectful to illegal aliens to say that they’re criminals.”

Haley emphasized her difference with DeSantis on Ukraine, arguing that supporting the European country in its war against Russia without putting U.S. troops on the ground is vital to American national security.

“We better remember that you have to be a friend to get a friend. And we needed a lot of friends September 12th. We’ve got to make sure we’re having the backs of the right friends because if Russia wins, China wins,” Haley said. “There’s a reason the Taiwanese want us to help the Ukrainians and that’s because they know if Ukraine wins, China won’t invade Taiwan. This is about preventing war.”

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  DeSantis, Haley Trade Barbs In Contentious GOP Debate