Rebecca Blackwell Associated Press Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, during a previous televised debate on NBC on November 8
Camille Camdessus – Agence France-Presse in Washington
January 11, 2024
- United States
Two Republicans are trying to present themselves as the best alternative to the big favorite Donald Trump for the American presidential election, during a televised face-to-face which began Wednesday evening less than a week before the start of the primaries.
Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, well ahead of Donald Trump in the polls for the Republican nomination, are playing a bit of double or nothing during this last debate before the choice of voters in Iowa.
Because a good electoral performance on Monday, in this small state where the stakes are high, would serve as a springboard for them to hope to hook Donald Trump and thwart the predictions.
Three hours before the debate opened, the only candidate who criticized Donald Trump bluntly, Chris Christie, announced that he was throwing in the towel.
He was so low in the polls that he did not meet the criteria set by the party to participate in Wednesday's debate.
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“It is certain tonight that there is no path for me to win the Republican Party's nomination for the White House, “so tonight I am suspending my campaign for the presidency of the United States,” Mr. Christie told his supporters from Windham, New Hampshire.
A former governor of New Jersey, the 61-year-old was once a supporter of Donald Trump but has since portrayed the billionaire as egocentric and dishonest.
Trump stands alone
The billionaire once again chose to snub the debate, believing he had too big a lead and that he had nothing to gain by exposing himself to a possible barrage of criticism.< /p>
But he once again took care to organize counter-programming, with a campaign event in the same city broadcast by the conservative channel Fox News while his two rivals debated on CNN.
This attitude earned him a dig from his former ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who judged in a press release that “it was time for Donald Trump to show up”. “As the field of debaters shrinks, it becomes harder for him to hide,” assured the former governor of South Carolina.
Still, the former president is probably reassured by a new poll (Suffolk University/USA TODAY) indicating that 51% of Republican voters do not plan to watch this debate, a sign that the proposed poster is lacking maybe a little flavor for their taste.
According to poll aggregator RealClearPolitics, Trump leads the way in Iowa with 52.3% of voting intentions, far ahead of Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis each at around 16%.
Nationally, the businessman is credited with 51.5%.
Springboard for Haley
His lead does not weaken despite the legal proceedings against him, the calendar of which is almost intertwined with that of the primaries. On the contrary, the tycoon integrated indictments and trials into his campaign strategy, even using his mugshot on mugs and t-shirts.
On Tuesday, he was before the federal appeals court in Washington which is examining his request to benefit from criminal immunity as a former president. And on Thursday, he will again be before the New York court which is trying him in a civil case for suspicion of fraud in the management of the Trump organization.
Once presented as a serious threat to Donald Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis never managed to emerge.
So much so that he now finds himself trying to stay in contact with Nikki Haley, Donald Trump's rival with the most momentum, and his future almost necessarily depends on a very solid result in Iowa.
For Nikki Haley, a good performance in Iowa would be an ideal springboard towards the next election, on January 23 in New Hampshire, where independent voters can vote in the Republican primaries. The latter could favor him more than Trump, potentially tightening the race.
with Frankie Taggart in Washington