Who won the debate? Analysts say Haley will struggle to overtake DeSantis

Who won the debate?  Analysts say Haley will struggle to overtake DeSantis

With just days left until the Iowa caucuses, the two remaining Republican presidential candidates — Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley — faced off on the debate stage Wednesday night over the economy, foreign policy and their records in their respective states, Florida and South Carolina.

The fifth debate of this primary season once again featured former President Donald J. Notable for the absence was Trump, the Republican front-runner, who opted to hold a town hall event sponsored by Fox News at the same time as his rivals facing off. It also featured a shrinking field, as Chris Christie announced hours before the debate that he was dropping out of the race. That increases the pressure on Ms. Haley to deliver a strong performance to solidify her position as Mr. Trump’s primary alternative, while Mr. DeSantis needs to shake up his floundering campaign to gain a foothold in the race.

Political analysts and pundits observed that Mr. Trump continued to benefit from avoiding direct engagement with his Republican rivals, with some suggesting that he had delivered a surprisingly “solid” performance at his event across the city, while the negotiations The gist of Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Haley often got sharp and personal in their responses to questions about Mr. Trump’s character. While Ms. Haley avoided any notable stumbles, some thought she managed to get the better of Mr. DeSantis.

Here is a sample of the response.

“Trump’s decision not to engage and validate the debate process was a smart move in itself, but leaving them to tear each other down is a nice perk,” Liam Donovan, a former member of the staff of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said, “Smaller lines and ditches may please his supporters but it is really hard to imagine any of these appealing to those looking to make decisions.”

“If DeSantis had been this good in the first primary debate, he would be in a much stronger position today,” said Frank Luntz, a focus group moderator, pollster and communications strategist who worked for Republican candidates. “I’ve been critical of him, but tonight he’s on fire.”

“In the context of what was at stake with the Haley and DeSantis debate tonight, I felt like stylistically Ron DeSantis came out a better debater,” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said. “He has moved from first gear to second gear. I think Nikki Haley remains exactly who she was.”

“Haley seized the opening left by Christie, forcefully called out Trump’s cowardice for avoiding the debate, and didn’t back down from banning abortion, which the base wants,” it said. Jesse Lee, former spokesperson for the National Economic Council in the Biden administration. “DeSantis is still afraid to give any reason to vote for him over Trump.”

“I think DeSantis has come a long way in terms of numbers,” Conservative commentator on CNN and President George W. Former Bush aide Scott Jennings said, Referring to Ms. Haley’s regular references to her DeSantis fact-checking website. “Haley created a stir with this website gimmick. Awkward enough to blunt his speed? We’ll see, but DeSantis needed a good night in Iowa and he got it.”

“Switch between CNN and Fox and there’s no comparison,” said Megyn Kelly, host of the Megyn Kelly radio show and former Fox News anchor. “Trump is completely compelling on TV. He’s funny, he’s interesting and he was very ‘on’ tonight.

“Tour-de-force performance by Trump tonight in his Iowa town hall hosted by Fox,” he said. Paul Sperry, a conservative author and New York Post columnist. “I haven’t seen a president so resolute and articulate in some time.”

“Trump gave Joe Biden a gift when he repeatedly emphasized how Roe was overturned only because of him,” said Former White House spokeswoman Alexandra LaManna, who focused on reproductive rights in the Biden administration, referred to Mr. Trump’s comments during a Fox News town hall. “The Biden campaign will undoubtedly make sure voters see this clip of Trump bragging about taking away freedoms from Americans between now and November.”

“Each appears to be accusing the other of being secretly corrupted by the Chinese,” said Michael Pillsbury, the Trump administration’s top China adviser. “My impression is that they couldn’t and didn’t attack Trump on China policy, so he won.”

“Even though the deficit is on track to surpass $2 trillion and hit $3 trillion, both candidates are promising more tax cuts and only modest spending savings over the next decade,” said Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the right-wing Manhattan Institute think tank. “It is pandering to voters by avoiding almost all the hard choices that would be required to avoid a debt crisis.”

“This isn’t Hepburn and Spencer, this is the DeSantis/Haley romantic comedy we deserve,” Caitlin Flanagan, an author and social critic, compared the spat between the candidates to a bad romantic comedy.

Alice McFadden Contributed to the reporting.

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