Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hammered away at his rival for the runner-up slot in the Republican presidential primary, Nikki Haley, over her fence-straddling about participating in next month’s debate in Iowa.
The Republican governor, as of Monday, was the only one to commit and qualify for the last debate before the Iowa caucuses begin, according to Axios.
Former President Donald Trump has blown off all the debates, and seems content resting on a 32-point lead in Iowa. Former Gov. Chris Christie and billionaire businessman Vivek Ramaswamy have yet to qualify and appear unlikely to.
CNN, which is hosting the Iowa event, has said that only candidates with at least 10% in three polls, including one from Iowa, will be allowed on stage. That effectively shuts out Ramaswamy and Christie.
That leaves DeSantis and Haley.
Haley, however, opened a door for DeSantis when she seemed to backtrack from her own recent comments about participating in the debates.
Axios noted that the former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador “has been noncommittal on the prospect of facing one-on-one DeSantis ahead of Iowa, even as she has also been calling on Trump to break his debate boycott.”
Axios’ report, published Monday, appeared just three days after Haley ripped Trump for sitting on the sidelines.
“When it comes to President Trump as well, I think he’s going to have to get on a debate stage here in Iowa because you’re fighting for Iowans’ votes. I think he’s got to sit there and do the groundwork,” Haley told local media in Iowa on Friday, according to Axios.
“You can’t have an election and not appear on a debate stage in front of the people who are going to be voting for you.”
Her reluctance so far presented DeSantis an opportunity to slam Haley after she borrowed some of the Floridian’s past criticism of Trump.
On Tuesday, DeSantis War Rom, the governor’s rapid-response media team, posted on X (formerly Twitter) Haley’s quote about Trump ducking Iowa along with a screenshot of Axios’ headline saying she herself is “noncommittal” about the event.
In another post, from Monday, DWR noted, “Nikki Haley is refusing to commit to debating on January 10 in Iowa. After DeSantis smoked her last week, it’s no wonder she’s scared to show up!”
In a separate post, DeSantis spokesman Bryan Griffin added, After the last debate loss, it is no wonder why @NikkiHaley has failed to confirm she will join @RonDeSantis on the debate stage in Iowa and New Hampshire next month.”
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