DeSantis and Haley trade barbs in tense debate while Trump talks to voters
Their fierce exchanges presented a sharp contrast with Trump's interactors with Caucus-goers and moderators Brett Baier and Martha MacCallum at the Fox event.
While former President Donald Trump fielded questions from Iowa Caucus-goers at a Fox News town hall, two of his rivals for the Republican nomination engaged in a fierce one-on-one debate on CNN.
Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who are currently locked in a dead heat for the second-place slot, both participated in the CNN debate, moderated by Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, just days ahead of the Iowa Caucus.
Their tense exchanges presented a sharp contrast with Trump's interactors with Caucus-goers and moderators Brett Baier and Martha MacCallum at the Fox event. While Trump did make the occasional quip about his strained relationship with the network and initially suggest Fox might have loaded the audience with his detractors, the affair largely remained amicable.
DeSantis and Haley opened their debate with sharp critiques, with the Florida governor calling his opponent a "mealy-mouthed politician" and asserting that "[a]nytime the going gets tough, anytime people come down, she caves."
"I debated the governor of California, Gavin Newsom," he added. "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."
"He's only mad about the donors because donors used to be with him but they're no longer with him now and that's because he's upset about the fact that his campaign is imploding," Haley said of her opponent in another exchange.
Haley repeatedly urged viewers to visit DeSantisLies.com as a response to myriad criticisms of her record from the Florida governor.
Trump's event saw the former president behave as the nominee-presumptive and tease that he had already selected his vice president, though he declined identify that individual.
"I can't tell you that really," he said. "I know who it's gonna be.... We'll do another show sometime."
That exchange saw a moment of levity after MacCallum questioned Trump's openness to "mending fences" with his primary opponents, to which Trump responded that he was open to such developments.
"I've already started to like Christie better," he quipped, in reference to the former New Jersey governor's withdrawal from the race earlier on Wednesday. The remark prompted laugher from the crowd and moderators, who pressed him on the prospect of Vice President Chris Christie, though Trump indicated that was unlikely.
President Trump Fox News town hall in Iowa.
* Q: Can you mend fences with GOP opponent?
* A: Sure. I already like Christie better (because he dropped out).
— Vince Manfeld (@AureliusStoic1) January 11, 2024
Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.