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Tags: ron desantis | nikki haley | debate | gop | primary | iowa | caucus

DeSantis Hits Haley as 'Mealy-Mouthed Politician' in Final Iowa Debate

By    |   Wednesday, 10 January 2024 10:02 PM EST

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered the first blow to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in the final debate before the Iowa caucuses, rebuking the moderate Haley as a "mealy-mouthed politician." 

"Now, Nikki Haley is running; we don't need another mealy-mouthed politician who just tells you what she thinks you want to hear just to try to get your vote, then to get into office and do her donors' bidding," DeSantis said in his opening, prepared remarks in the Des Moines, Iowa, debate Wednesday night, just days before Monday's caucuses kick off the 2024 GOP primary cycle. 

"She was in another state, and she said the people of Iowa's votes need to be corrected. 

"This is somebody that wrote in her book that Hillary Clinton inspired her to first run for office. I remember Hillary denigrating people on the Republican side as 'deplorables.' We don't need a candidate who is going to look down on middle America. We've had enough of that. 

"I'm the only one that is going to be able to lead this country's revival. I'm asking for your support, and I won't let you down." 

It is just five days before the Iowa's leadoff presidential caucuses as the candidates are issuing last-minute appeals to voters to turn out for the Jan. 15 contest, which could be the coldest caucus night ever. 

The attacks were also cold on Haley from DeSantis, who is battling her for the No. 2 spot behind former President Donald Trump in most of the early primary and caucus states. 

"I debated the governor of California, Gavin Newsom," DeSantis said. "I thought he lied a lot. Man, Nikki Haley gives him a run for his money, and she may even be more liberal than Gavin Newsom is. 

"We are in a situation here in Florida — as Republicans, you need somebody who is going to be in there and fight for you. And Nikki Haley, anytime the going gets tough, anytime people come down, she caves. When you need someone standing and fight for you, don't look for Nikki Haley. You won't be able to find her if you had a search warrant." 

Haley also hit DeSantis for lies, pitching her campaign website responding to DeSantis' campaign attacks. 

"Go to," Haley said, responding to DeSantis criticism on her softer immigration polices. "I said you can't just build a wall. You have to do more than build a wall. It was having the wall and everything else. 

"You can't trust what Ron is saying. But this is a bigger issue. This is more than him just constantly being desperate and throwing things on me." 

On Ukraine support, DeSantis called Haley a "carbon copy" of President Joe Biden's Ukraine aid policy of an "open-ended commitment," saying, "You can take the ambassador out of the United Nations, but you can't take the United Nations out of the ambassador." 

"I supported Trump's policy vis-à-vis Russia, Ukraine; and it was successful," DeSantis said. "The Biden policy has not been. But Nikki Haley is basically a carbon copy of what Biden is. It's an open-ended commitment. They want another $800 billion. They will not tell you when they have achieved their goal. This is going to go on maybe hundreds of billions more into the future. 

"We need to find a way to end this, because our priorities for national security and, of course, the border, which we talked about. And people like Nikki Haley care more about Ukraine's border than she does about our own southern border, which is wrong. But we are to take a look at what's the top threat to this country." 

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who did not qualify for the debate, dropped out of the race Wednesday in a late effort to blunt Trump's momentum heading into Iowa. 

Iowa Republican voters will indicate their picks for the party's presidential nominee on Monday, and the results of that vote will determine how many of the state's 40 convention delegates each candidate will receive. 

Candidates win national convention delegates in direct proportion to the percentage of the vote they receive. There is no minimum threshold required to qualify for delegates. 

For Democrats, nothing is at stake, since the 2024 caucuses will have no bearing on the presidential race. 

An Associated Press reporter driving from Des Moines to Davenport for a Trump campaign event spotted dozens of cars and trucks stranded along the side of Interstate 80, a major artery through Iowa. 

A couple of trucks were on their side, while other vehicles had crashed into a barrier along the median. 

Candidates were forced to cancel their events earlier in the week when heavy snow hit the leadoff caucus state. Vivek Ramaswamy said his car got stuck in a ditch while driving in snowy weather Monday night to Des Moines from northwest Iowa. 

Trump and DeSantis don't agree on much but do find common ground on one thing: Christie's parting shot at Haley. 

Trump said Wednesday he might "even get to like" Christie again after the departing presidential candidate was caught on a hot mic saying Haley was "going to get smoked" and was "not up to this." 

DeSantis' sentiment in a post on X was similar: "I agree with Christie that Nikki Haley is 'going to get smoked.'" 

Haley, meanwhile, was gracious in her well wishes for Christie, calling her former fellow governor "a friend for many years" and commending him on "a hard-fought campaign." 

Christie was caught on a hot mic bashing Haley moments before he ended his campaign at a New Hampshire town hall. 

"She's going to get smoked," he said of Haley, adding: "She's not up to this." 

He also said that DeSantis had called him, "petrified" that he was going to endorse Haley, but the hot mic was cut before he finished speaking. 

Christie also appeared to defend his performance in the race as Trump continues to dominate. 

"People don't want to hear it. They don't want to hear it. We know we're right, but they don't want to hear it," he said. "We couldn't have been any clearer. We couldn't have been any more direct or worked any harder." 

Haley and DeSantis have spent much of the Republican presidential primary flanked by lower-polling rivals, so the stakes are high for the former U.N. ambassador and the Florida governor at Wednesday's debate. 

The moment is especially important for Haley, a politician long known for her disciplined approach to messaging but who has recently suffered a series of gaffes. 

DeSantis left an important item in Florida when he flew back to Iowa after delivering his State of the State address Tuesday. 

"I actually do have a winter coat," DeSantis told a construction contractors convention in Des Moines on Wednesday. "And I forgot it. I left it at home." 

The temperatures for Iowa were below freezing and headed to below zero through Monday's caucuses. DeSantis told the crowd that his staff was hustling his coat from Tallahassee before he headed up to even-chillier northwest Iowa on Thursday. 

"I think I'll need much more than that," he said. "I think I'm going to need the earmuffs and all that stuff." 

Information from The Associated Press was used to compile this report. 

Eric Mack

Eric Mack has been a writer and editor at Newsmax since 2016. He is a 1998 Syracuse University journalism graduate and a New York Press Association award-winning writer.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered the first blow to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in the final debate before the Iowa Caucus, rebuking the moderate Haley as a "mealy-mouth politician."
ron desantis, nikki haley, debate, gop, primary, iowa, caucus
Wednesday, 10 January 2024 10:02 PM
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