DeSantis Commits to Iowa Debate, Haley & Trump Hold Out

The fate of CNN’s upcoming GOP debate hangs in the balance.

The televised event is scheduled for Jan. 10 in Iowa–just five days before the Republican Caucuses kick off–but so far, Governor Ron DeSantis is the only candidate to commit.

Former South Carolina Governor and former President Donald Trump have both refused to sign on to the debate. In contrast, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy face long odds of even qualifying. The Iowa event would mark the fifth consecutive debate that Trump has chosen to skip and the first for Haley.

Haley spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas told reporters that the campaign was mulling “many new offers” since the RNC pulled out of the CNN debates but did not offer any specifics. “We look forward to debating in Iowa and continuing to show voters why Nikki is the best candidate to retire Joe Biden and save our country,” Perez-Cubas said, leaving it unclear how Haley would manage a debate before the Iowa Caucuses.

The campaign’s refusal to commit drew criticism from DeSantis earlier this week,

“Debating is the bare minimum that you do as a candidate. It’s certainly not brave to show up to debate,” DeSantis said during an appearance on the ‘Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show.’ “I’ll show up. We’ll see if the other two show up. But I think you should show up.”

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Haley’s refusal to appear on stage in Iowa marks a sudden about-face from her position last week when she openly criticized Trump for skipping the GOP debates.

“I think he’s gonna have to get on a debate stage here in Iowa because you’re fighting for Iowans’ votes,” Haley said in an interview last week with KTIV in Sioux City, Iowa. “You can’t have an election and not appear on a debate stage in front of the people who are going to be voting for you. I mean, that’s an arrogant approach.”

DeSantis spokesman Bryan Griffin suggested that Haley’s performance at the previous GOP debate has played a role in her noncommittal. He told the New York Post in a statement,

“In this last Republican primary debate, he caused Nikki Haley to shrink into the backdrop as he reminded voters that she has caved on every significant fight as a leader… After that loss, it is no wonder why Haley has failed to confirm she will join Ron DeSantis on the debate stage in Iowa and New Hampshire next month.”

“Ron DeSantis has accepted every major debate and won each of them. He thoroughly bested Gavin Newsom and proved he can beat the Democrats’ nominee in the general election — no matter who that will be.”

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While the possibility remains that Haley will appear on stage before the Iowa Caucuses in some form, it is unlikely Trump will agree to any events with the other GOP candidates.

In response to criticism from the DeSantis campaign, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung told the New York Post, “Ron DeSantis is eager to be president, but that doesn’t mean he’ll get what he wants.”

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