The battle in Tuscaloosa featured a smaller gathering after Tim Scott and Doug Burgum bowed out. Moderated by the burgeoning NewsNation network, a raucous debate occurred between three candidates and one lunatic.
Haley exhibited the same foreign policy depth she showcased throughout the primaries. Interestingly, the former UN ambassador is the most internationalist candidate in the race yet promotes national security policies that would have gotten her labeled an isolationist only a decade ago.
Haley’s most decisive moments were when she showed grace under fire
from attacks by her opponents. Ramaswamy’s preplanned “Nikki Haley is corrupt” nonsense was personalized due to the abuse she placed on him during the first three debates. It made him look like a piteous schoolboy whose affection just got embarrassingly rejected in the cafeteria.
His criticism of Trump halfway through was welcome. However, it’s the fourth debate, and he finally got around to the “Trump let you down” argument that DeSantis should have pushed from day one. Speaking of “on day one,” it’s a ridiculous cliché overused by the governor.
DeSantis otherwise stayed relatively above the fray — firing at Haley confirmed her status as the frontrunner among the four — but often redirected questions to preplanned responses instead of actually answering their substance.
In hammering Ramaswamy
, Chris Christie ran defense for Haley in the process. It’s an interesting approach if it gives Haley space to make a positive case for herself but also deprives her of oxygen and the potential for solid moments.
The entire point of his running was to expose Trump and oust him. And though he tried
, it’s more difficult when Trump is not on the stage. While there is something admirable about telling an audience exactly what it doesn’t want to hear, when Christie talks, who is listening? The New Jerseyan is only siphoning off voters from Trump’s opponents. Take a cue from Burgum, Pence, and Scott.
After his appalling Miami performance
, having this gaslighting narcissist on stage is a detriment to the party. The cruel rhetoric
is detestable and immature enough, but the Jan. 6 and Sept. 11 conspiracies he espouses are downright un-American.
The multi-millionaire goon is so maximalist in his attacks that it takes away any force from them. The hyperbole and lack of civility make him sound like a child trying to feel adult.
He will be older next election day than Joe Biden was in November 2020. He is off a step at his rare public appearances, likely worn down by his ongoing criminal trials. Trump’s primary polling numbers — below 50% in Iowa and New Hampshire — may have him leading but are the lowest of any incumbent in modern history. Will he be finally forced to debate his final competitors instead of holding closed-door fundraisers? Will early state voters punish him for avoiding debates and not letting them hear his policies?
We have reached the point where this is a three-person race: DeSantis, Haley, and the absent Trump. I don’t expect the field to consolidate around the Floridian or South Carolinian before Iowans vote in five weeks, but at some point, before the Palmetto State primary, that will likely happen.
DeSantis seems relatively strong in the Hawkeye State, but the Iowa winner hasn’t been the GOP nominee in 16 years. There is no pathway for DeSantis after Iowa, whereas Haley has one. And if the former president refuses to talk to persuadable Americans, either candidate can take out Trump and be the nominee. Policies should matter, not performative outrage about the latest incendiary cable news clip.
Ari J. Kaufman is the managing editor of the Tri-Cities Business Journal. He’s written for several newspapers, authored three books, is a frequent guest on radio programs, and contributes to Israel National News and here at The Lid.