Five days before the Iowa caucuses begin, the competition began to shrink to a level of viability.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced Wednesday in New Hampshire that his campaign did not see a path toward victory, and hence, he was dropping out of the race, but before he took to the stage to officially announce that, he said Nicki Haley was “going to get smoked” when pitted against former President Donald Trump.
Trump is leading in a wide margin in the polls in Iowa, even though Haley is gaining in the New Hampshire polls before the Granite State’s primary on January 23rd. (based on a CNN poll that is likely an outlier and not credible)
Turnout will be a major factor in Iowa and New Hampshire. Four counties in Iowa’s northeast region is where many evangelical communities live. If they turn out for Trump, that could be a clear sign that the evangelicals are staying with Trump.
On Wednesday, Iowans turned out at two town halls in Des Moines despite the cold weather.
Trump appeared at a Iowa town hall on Wednesday on FOX, while former UN Ambassador and former South Carolina Governor Nicki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis were on CNN’s debate stage in the same city, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy appeared on a radio show.
Trump was asked about the “unfinished” business from his prior term. He repeated his successes with “right to try” medicines policy, leaving covid shutdowns to governors, and he asked whether the public should be focused on “government shutdowns,’ versus “covid shutdowns.” Trump claimed that Dr. Anthony Fauci “was not not a huge factor” in his covid decisions.
During the FOX broadcast, Trump repeated what he has said before, that “there will be a [stock market] crash” if he does not win again.
Trump also reiterated that the US must “pay down the debt” instead of building up its debt.
One Iowan Trump Caucus Captain asked him about the immigration crises on the border. Trump was quick to remark that he would deport those who illegally crossed the US border - “largest deportation effort in our country…we have no choice,” he said.
Democrats and competing republicans have tried to paint a second Trump term as one of retribution and revenge.
“Im not going to have time for retribution,” said Trump.
He reiterated his pro-life position similar to Ronald Reagan’s - "all life, pro-life, except when the life of the mother is at risk, rape and incest."
He called for de-escalation of the foreign wars and reiterated his “peace through strength” mantra.
Not far from Trump’s town hall, Haley and DeSantis spent most of their energy attacking each other.
Clearly, both candidates were heavily briefed on opposition research on each other.
DeSantis sprinkled some digs at Trump throughout his answers, accusing him of putting “word vomit” on social media and saying, “Donald Trump deported fewer people than Barack Obama did.”
Other times, DeSantis aligned himself with Trump to criticize Haley. “I supported Trump’s policy vis-a-vis Russia and Ukraine. It was successful,” he said. “The Biden policy has not been. But Nikki Haley is basically a carbon copy of what Biden is.”
Haley’s toughest criticism of Trump came when she disagreed with him that Jan. 6, 2021, was “a beautiful day”; she called it “a terrible day.” She added: “Trump lost it. Biden won that election.”
But Haley reserved her toughest criticisms for DeSantis, not Trump.
“The best way to tell about a candidate is to see how they run their campaign. He has blown through $150 million. I don’t know how you do that. Through his campaign, he has nothing to show for it,” she said. “He spent more money on private planes than he has on commercials trying to get Iowans to vote for him. If you can’t manage your campaign, how are you going to manage the country?, asked Haley.
Later, DeSantis said Trump "sat in the White House and tweeted law and order, but he "did nothing to ensure law and order" during the 2020 "riots." Then DeSantis pivoted with his attacks on Haley.
Haley is only "running to pursue her donors' issues."
"We don’t need another mealy-mouthed politician who just tells you what she thinks you want to hear just to try to get your vote," he said. "This is somebody that wrote in her book that Hillary Clinton inspired her to first run for office."
“I debated the governor of California, Gavin Newsom. I thought he lied a lot. Man, Nikki Haley gives him a run for his money, and she may even be more liberal than Gavin Newsom is," DeSantis said, adding that the next president should govern in "bold colors" and "not the pale pastel warmed-over corporatism of people like Nikki Haley."
When DeSantis accused Haley of favoring a gas tax hike in South Carolina, Haley said she did not raise the tax.
"You tried," he interrupted. "You're on video."
"Governor DeSantis, she has the floor," CNN's Dana Bash said.
Haley responded by encouraging viewers to go to the website DeSantisLies.com, which her campaign created, to push back against his claims about her. “Every time he lies — Drake University, don’t turn this into a drinking game, because you will be over-served by the end of the night," Haley said.
"He’s upset about the fact that his campaign is exploding," she said.
In her closing statement, Haley said the U.S. cannot afford "four more years of chaos" with a "world on fire" if Trump wins again.
Both candidates agreed on immigration and mirrored Trump's position.
“The number of people that will be amnestied when I am president is zero. We cannot do an amnesty in this country,” DeSantis said.
“You have to deport them,” Haley said.
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