Fifth Republican debate: 3 winners, 2 losers


When you by some means prevented watching the Ron DeSantisNikki Haley debate Wednesday night time, you missed an epic occasion stuffed with game-changing moments that might totally remodel the GOP nomination contest.

Simply kidding.

What really occurred was that DeSantis and Haley squabbled for 2 hours, every giving purpose after purpose why the opposite one was terrible. In the meantime, Donald Trump, the man with the gargantuan ballot lead who’s skipped each debate, solely got here up often. As has occurred in each debate to date.

Onstage, each Haley and DeSantis had been mainly positive: not nice, not horrible. But not all unmemorable debate performances are created equal. DeSantis wanted to shake up a contest during which he appears more and more doomed to defeat — and he didn’t obtain that.

Haley wanted to keep away from derailing her marketing campaign’s latest momentum, and he or she achieved that. The previous South Carolina governor appears well-positioned to get the head-to-head contest with the previous president she hoped for. But in a way, any occasion the place Haley and DeSantis are spending two hours chewing up one another can be a win for Trump.

Winner: Nikki Haley; Loser: Ron DeSantis

Nikki Haley smiles onstage.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Photographs

Seen as a discrete, standalone occasion, separate from the bigger context of the marketing campaign, the talk was a draw. Neither DeSantis nor Haley landed a knockout blow or had an unbelievable “second.” As a substitute, they spent two hours needling and sniping at one another. It’s tough to think about undecided voters studying a lot of substance from this occasion.

However once we do contemplate the bigger context of the marketing campaign, DeSantis and Haley wanted various things out of this debate. DeSantis wanted a transparent win extra, and he didn’t get it.

Although Haley stays far behind Trump nationally, she has been on the rise in her high early state goal: New Hampshire. And simply hours earlier than the talk, she received the excellent news that Chris Christie, who was pulling a piece of the anti-Trump vote in Granite State, was dropping out. So this debate wasn’t live-or-die for her marketing campaign. She wanted to keep away from a dangerous gaffe or embarrassing second, and he or she did that.

DeSantis’s marketing campaign, in distinction, has had little or no excellent news for a really very long time. He began off because the clear second-place contender behind Trump, however Haley drew even with him in polls nationally and in Iowa, whereas far surpassing him in New Hampshire. DeSantis has primarily guess his marketing campaign on Iowa, and he stays greater than 30 factors behind Trump within the state.

This debate could have been DeSantis’s final probability to shake up the dynamics of the race —to drag his marketing campaign out of its months-long doom spiral, by taking down Haley and reestablishing himself as the highest different to Trump. He did all proper — however he didn’t handle to drag off that tough job.

Loser: The viewers

In concept, the discount of the once-crowded GOP debate stage to simply two candidates, neither of whom is Donald Trump, might have led to a high-minded dialogue of the problems.

However, in fact, that didn’t occur. DeSantis and Haley referred to as one another liars so many occasions, in such rapid-fire tempo, nitpicking one another’s data and supposed feedback the opposite made in such aggressive style that it was extraordinarily tough for even hardened political obsessives to make sense of it.

Sometimes, there was a helpful level of distinction on a difficulty. On Ukraine, Haley strongly supported additional army support and argued {that a} Ukrainian defeat would imply additional Russian expansionism and potential battle with NATO. DeSantis made clear he didn’t wish to preserve an “open-ended dedication” to again Ukraine and that he wished to “discover a approach to finish” the battle.

For probably the most half, although, it was a unending litany of why “I’m good and the opposite candidate is dangerous.” Haley portrayed DeSantis’s Florida as a vastly costly place the place seniors can’t afford to dwell anymore. DeSantis portrayed Haley’s South Carolina as a Chinese language money-ridden academics union stronghold. All of it got here off as exaggerated and foolish.

Winner: Gimmicky web site references reminiscent of the dot-com period

DeSantis gives a thumbs-up.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis enters the spin room after the CNN Republican presidential main debate at Drake College on January 10, 2024, in Des Moines, Iowa
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Photographs

In a largely unmemorable debate, there’s only one earworm that may doubtless stick in viewers’ minds: “DeSantis Lies Dot Com.”

Haley talked about this, a web site put collectively by her marketing campaign, what appeared like dozens of occasions, starting in her very first reply of the night time. Her fixed repetition of it to the purpose of absurdity risked self-parody.

With this, she was apparently making an attempt to deploy an all-purpose deflection of DeSantis’s fixed assaults on her and her report, with out getting slowed down in specifics or trying too defensive, seeming like she was letting assaults go unanswered — in order that she would have extra time to counterattack him.

However consistently repeating “Dot Com” was the maybe inadvertently quaint half. Simply as Haley seems to be operating as a Republican from the pre-Trump period, making an attempt to revive the GOP to that earlier time, she’s reminiscent of a extra harmless time in America, when everybody seemingly had an internet site to tout.

Winner: Donald Trump

Trump stands onstage leaning on a chair, holding a coffee mug.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump participates in a Fox Information City Corridor on January 10, 2024, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Joe Raedle/Getty Photographs

In any three-way race, when two candidates spend the overwhelming majority of their time attacking one another, that’s good for the third candidate. And that’s what occurred Wednesday night time. DeSantis and Haley tried to tear one another to shreds, whereas making occasional, well mannered critiques of the man main nationwide polls by 50 factors. (Trump counterprogrammed the talk by doing a Fox Information city corridor occasion, at which he mentioned he was “proud” to have overturned Roe v. Wade — one thing that is likely to be an issue for him within the basic election however gained’t dent him within the main.)

As a lot as Haley has had a glimmer of hope in New Hampshire recently, it stays a glimmer: She hasn’t led a single ballot there. Her nationwide assist has been round 11 factors. Trump’s has been about 60. Day by day that lead holds up is one other day Trump will get nearer to turning into the GOP nominee — and, maybe, our subsequent president.


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