Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley tore into each other in Wednesday night’s Republican presidential primary debate in Iowa.
The rivals leaned on a few key themes to hit each other throughout the CNN debate, suggesting the other is fundamentally unfit for the job instead of merely being wrong on policy.
Haley portrayed DeSantis as an unserious, lying loser.
“Ron’s lying because Ron’s losing,” she said at one point. “You’re so desperate. You’re just so desperate.”
Early in the debate, she debuted the website DeSantisLies.com — and then went on to direct viewers to the URL over and over again throughout the rest of the debate.
The website, which had been registered a week earlier, according to internet registration records, is a list of things Haley’s campaign claims DeSantis is lying about, especially about her.
“It’s a shame that we had to put up DeSantisLies.com, honestly,” Haley said after her seventh reference to the website. “The reason he’s blown through $150 million [of campaign funds] is because he’s spent more time and money trying to lie about me than he has saying anything about himself.”
She repeatedly trashed his campaign for wasting money on private jets, cratering in the polls after high expectations and campaigning almost exclusively in Iowa. “If you can’t manage this, why should we think you could manage anything else in this country?” she asked at one point, returning to the theme several times.
DeSantis, meanwhile, hammered Haley as a squishy moderate globalist who wouldn’t stand up for conservative values.
“Nikki will cave to the woke mob, every single time,” DeSantis said to applause.
He called her “the new John Kerry,” referring to the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee and former secretary of state, and he connected Haley to the United Nations, a notoriously clunky bureaucracy loathed by the right.
“You can take the ambassador out of the United Nations, but you can’t take the United Nations out of the ambassador,” he said.
And he accused her of being inspired by Hillary Clinton and of painting, metaphorically, with “pale pastels” — an eyebrow-raising word choice to attack the first female governor of South Carolina, especially because she was wearing a pastel top. DeSantis used the phrase multiple times.
But as heated as the two got with each other, they never really directed much ire at their main competition: Trump.
But every time she was asked about Trump, instead of criticizing him, she just said he should be there to defend himself.
“Don’t ask me what President Trump thinks,” Haley said when she was asked whether the former president is “pro-life.” “You have to have him on this stage and ask him.”