Nikki Haley weathered biting attacks from Ron DeSantis in the fourth Republican presidential primary debate while the trailing pair largely disregarded front-runner Donald Trump, who again ducked a fight with his rivals in order to preserve his extensive lead in the homestretch before 2024 voting commences.
The final primary debate of the year in Tuscaloosa, Alabama televised by NewsNation was also the slimmest — featuring just four candidates — and came just 40 days from Iowa’s caucuses, the opening contest, which traditionally helps winnow the field.
While Haley, the former U.N. ambassador, and DeSantis, the current Florida governor, traded blows in their best attempts to become the last candidate standing to confront Trump, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Gov. Chris Christie played supporting roles, at times hurling caustic insults at each other and offering vastly different ideological and stylistic paths forward for the Republican Party.
Here are 3 takeaways from the fourth GOP debate, which could be one of the last of the cycle:
DeSantis’ case: Haley will cave
For weeks, DeSantis has been teeing up a sharpened line of attack against a rising Haley: You can’t trust her to stand up for conservative values.
“She will cave to the donors. She will not stand up for you,” DeSantis declared.
DeSantis cited Haley’s position on banning youth transgender surgeries, noting that she previously said “the law should stay out of it.” His super PAC released an accompanying video before the debate showing Haley saying children who have contemplated suicide should get the therapy they need.
Haley responded that she believes no transgender surgeries should be permitted before the age of 18, but the coordinated barrage was meant to undermine Haley’s reputation with evangelical and culturally conservative voters who dominate the Iowa caucuses.
DeSantis also castigated Haley for requiring social media users to be verified by name, a proposal she later appeared to adjust slightly following an outcry.
©2023 Miami Herald. Visit at miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.