Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis spar in 4th Republican presidential debate


Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis squabbled Wednesday in the latest Republican presidential debate as they both seek to claim the mantle of the main challenger to former President Donald Trump with the Iowa caucuses looming less than six weeks away.

The two main contenders — standing feet apart — traded barbs over issues like transgender rights, bringing Chinese businesses to the U.S. and the wars in Israel and Ukraine even as they dodged questions about Trump, who remains the dominant frontrunner for the nomination.

“She caves anytime the left comes after her (and) any time the media comes after her,” DeSantis said. “These Wall Street liberal donors are not going to let her be tough on China.”

“He’s mad because those Wall Street donors used to support him and now they support me,” Haley, who’s been rising in the polls for months, shot back.

The ex-UN ambassador accused DeSantis and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy of ganging up on her with childish frat boy-style insults.

“I love all the attention, fellas,” Haley retorted.

Republican presidential candidates former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (L) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis participate in the NewsNation Republican Presidential Primary Debate at the University of Alabama Moody Music Hall on December 6, 2023 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (L) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis participate in the NewsNation Republican Presidential Primary Debate at the University of Alabama Moody Music Hall on December 6, 2023 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took all the other candidates to task for failing to even mention Trump for the debate’s first 17 minutes even as the former president vows to be a “dictator” and retaliate against opponents if he gets back to the White House.

“He’s a dictator, a bully (and) he is unfit to be president,” Christie said. “There is no bigger issue than Donald Trump.”

Christie took dead aim at DeSantis who brazenly refused to directly answer a question about whether Trump is fit to hold office.

“He’s afraid to answer,” Christie said. “They’re afraid to offend Donald Trump.”

For the fourth straight debate, the youthful Ramaswamy showed off the sharpest tongue, trashing Haley as a corporate stooge and a neo-conservative who supports foreign wars.

He also hit Christie with a nasty jab about his weight, urging the ex-governor to end his campaign and “have a good meal.”

Haley, who has been rising steadily in polls for months, sought to take the high road and resisted the temptation of getting back into the mud with Ramaswamy, whom she derided last time as “scum.”

Christie hit back harder at Ramaswamy, warning about the danger of listening to a longtime Democrat whose plan for Ukraine includes letting Russian strongman Vladimir Putin keep most of the embattled ally and accepting Putin’s word that he wouldn’t cozy up to China.

Trump, who has skipped all four debates, is leading all the other candidates in polls by a wide margin despite facing four criminal trials on 91 felony counts.

The de facto leader of the GOP has lobbed insults at DeSantis and Haley throughout the campaign while they regularly pass up chances of harshly criticizing him.

Haley has risen in recent polling into a virtual tie with DeSantis in many polls and recently won the support of the Koch network of conservative megadonors in a stinging blow to DeSantis.

DeSantis, meanwhile, has been dogged by a months-long slump in the polls and questions about his mercurial management style that has led to upheaval in his campaign and the political action committee spending the most to support him.



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