Haley, DeSantis tear apart each other's record in Republican debate

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Nikki Haley And Ron DeSantis Calling each other liars, each insulted the other's record and character in the opening minutes of Wednesday's Republican primary debate, underscoring the high stakes for each of them less than a week before the Iowa caucuses.

“We don't need another lip-service politician who tells you what you want to hear, trying to get your vote and then get into office and do the bidding of the donors,” DeSantis said early on. Barb

“He's upset that his campaign is imploding,” Haley said in her response.

Former U.N. The ambassador directed viewers to a website detailing what he said were DeSantis' lies in his campaign. The Florida governor tried to direct people to his website, where he said he had compiled “all the biggest hits” of Haley's false statements.

Standing an arm's length apart at lecterns, both DeSantis and Haley sought a strong debate show in Iowa to boost their campaigns in the final days before Monday's caucuses without their low-polling rivals. They are trying to become the primary alternative to Donald Trump.

The former president and GOP frontrunner skipped a CNN debate in Des Moines to appear at a Fox News town hall in the same city.

Neither Haley nor DeSantis directly answered the question of whether Trump “has the character to be president.”

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at a campaign event at Mickey's Irish Pub in Waukee, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“His way is not my way,” Haley said. “I have no revenge. I have no grudges. I don't take things personally.

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DeSantis said Trump has failed to deliver on promises to build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it, prosecute Hillary Clinton, “drain the swamp” or eliminate the national debt.

“We have to deliver and do these things,” DeSantis said.

Hours before Haley and DeSantis took the stage, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced that he would. Drops out of the race, a curve ball with major implications. Christie, a Trump critic vying for the GOP nomination, has faced intense pressure to step aside so the former president's enemies can rally behind a candidate and improve his chances of toppling the front-runner.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a Fox News Channel town hall Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, in Des Moines, Iowa.  (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a Fox News Channel town hall Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Christie, along with biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramasamy, was not eligible for Wednesday's debate after appearing at earlier events.

Trump said he was “not exactly worried” about Christie's departure. He said he agreed with Christie's comments on the hot mic prior to his announcement, when he said Haley was “going to smoke” and “not yet.”

Wednesday's debate is particularly important for Haley, a politician long known for her disciplined approach to messaging. That reputation has been tested recently after a series of gaffes, including Failing to mention slavery It's a source of civil war and a joke that New Hampshire voters will get a chance to “correct” the results coming out of Iowa.

The debate gives Haley a chance to reset a campaign that has come under fresh scrutiny from everyone from her GOP rivals to the president. Joe BidenA sign that her opponents in both parties see her as a rising contender.

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Despite both DeSantis and Haley trailing Trump in the polls, the candidates on Wednesday spent more time criticizing each other than focusing on the frontrunners.

Each tried to take a position as leader, referring to the US-Mexico border and the passage of large numbers of migrants.

DeSantis noted that his state chartered a plane to fly immigrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, without notifying local officials. He also promised to complete the border wall that Trump has focused on during his presidency, and accused Haley of not supporting it enough.

Pointing to her actions as governor of South Carolina, Haley passed legislation requiring businesses to check the immigration status of employees and job applicants, and legislation requiring local police to inquire about the immigration status of people they stop. The latter received a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice during former President Barack Obama's administration — Haley noted with pride.

The U.S. is playing a key role in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war and has emerged as a clear dividing line between Haley and DeSantis.

Haley offered emotional protection for sending aid to Ukraine and Israel. DeSantis accused him of caring more about the Ukrainian border than the US's southern border.

“You can kick the ambassador out of the United Nations, but you can't kick the United Nations out of the ambassador,” DeSantis said.

Haley poked again.

“It's about preventing war,” he said. “You only do that when you're focused on national security, don't tell the American people lies that they have to choose. That's wrong.”

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After several debates filled with candidates with little chance of winning the nomination, several expected caucuses said they planned to focus more closely on a debate featuring Trump's main opponents.

Some of Haley's strongest moments have come during the previous four debates, as she battled her on-stage rivals.

A CNN/UNH poll in New Hampshire this week suggested Haley may be closing in on Trump's top spot in the state. About 4 in 10 Republican primary voters in New Hampshire chose Trump, while a third chose Haley.

While she has taken questions at several of her campaign events over the months, including a town hall where she entertains questions from assembled crowds, Haley has rarely spoken to reporters covering her events, held news conferences or sat down for print interviews. DeSantis did not speak to reporters after his own Fox News town hall on Monday, a day before his appearance.

DeSantis quickly tried to turn some of Haley's words against him. He was quick to bring up Haley's point Wednesday that New Hampshire would “fix” Iowa's results — something Haley later said was a joke about the rivalry between the two early voting states.

Trump has stepped up his attacks as Haley draws more attention. In recent weeks, his campaign has accused him of not being conservative enough on immigration and, while serving as South Carolina's governor, for proposing to raise the state's gas tax as part of a broader budget package that was ultimately rejected.

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Price announced from New York. Associated Press reporters in Phoenix, Jonathan J. Cooper and Jill Colvin in Des Moines contributed to this report.

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Follow AP's coverage of the 2024 elections https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.

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