‘You’re just so desperate’: Agitated Nikki Haley repeatedly calls Ron DeSantis a liar for claiming she wants to send taxpayer cash to pay Ukrainian bureaucrats and calls him a ‘loser’ in debate dominated by petty exchanges

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Written By Maya Cantina

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley came out swinging at Wednesday’s one-on-one debate in Des Moines just five days before the Iowa caucuses.

Haley repeatedly slammed DeSantis as a ‘liar’ and said he is repeating mistruths because he is ‘just so desperate’ to gain traction in the 2024 race. 

Meanwhile, Donald Trump was across town in West Des Moines for a Fox News town hall.

DeSantis said that the ex-president should be on stage debating with him instead of Haley and claimed that the former South Carolina governor is ‘more liberal than [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom.’ 

He also said that Haley has a case of ‘ballistic podiatry,’ claiming that she repeatedly ‘shoots herself in the foot.’ 

Immediately after stepping on stage, the two candidates were at each other’s throats, with DeSantis calling Haley a ‘mealy-mouthed politician’ and her shooting back that his campaign is ‘exploding’. 

Just a few hours before the CNN debate, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie held a town hall in New Hampshire where he announced he is suspending his campaign.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley (right) took stage at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa on Wednesday for the first one-on-one debate

Gov. DeSantis arrives for the CNN debate Wednesday evening. Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis and son Mason, five, are seen arriving with the 2024 hopeful

Gov. DeSantis arrives for the CNN debate Wednesday evening. Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis and son Mason, five, are seen arriving with the 2024 hopeful

Drake University's Olmsted Center is the site of the fifth Republican presidential debate. Snow started falling in Des Moines as the candidates prepared to take stage

Drake University’s Olmsted Center is the site of the fifth Republican presidential debate. Snow started falling in Des Moines as the candidates prepared to take stage

Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy who did not qualify to debate Wednesday for the first time in the cycle, is also holding a competing event. 

Candidates are flocking to Iowa ahead of the January 15 primary contest, with dozens of events between the debate and the caucuses. 

Debate moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash had to juggle the two candidates as they launched personal attacks and accused each other of lying. 

But rather than focusing on their own records, the candidates went on attack mode out the gate.

‘He’s only mad about the donors because the 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 exploding,’ Haley said.

Held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, Haley warned students not to turn the debate into a ‘drinking game’ for whenever DeSantis’ lies ‘because you will be over served by the end of the night.’

She also promoted several times the website DeSantisLies.com.

During a back-and-forth about the age of retirement and social security collection, DeSantis said Haley repeatedly shoots herself in the foot.

‘She said recently that the age of social security is way too low. And I criticized that and then she was called on it,’ DeSantis alleged. ‘And then she said she never said it. Of course, she’s lying.’

‘So we can play this song and dance – She has a record, she makes statements,’ he added, getting a few laughs after saying:. ‘And I think part of the problem with her candidacy is now that she’s getting scrutiny, she’s got this problem with ballistic podiatry – shooting herself in the foot every other day, saying things, that now she doesn’t even take questions from people.’

DeSantis also took a shot at Haley’s position in the Trump administration, when she was the Ambassador to the United Nations, an entity which the Florida governor has said he wants to completely strip of U.S. funding.

He said that Haley is still just a shill for the UN as she says she agrees with the U.S. backing Ukraine in its war with Russia.

‘Here is the problem with what she is saying,’ DeSantis said from the podium. ‘She doesn’t articulate how this comes to an end,’ he added in reference to the continued aid for Ukraine and pushes for the country to join NATO.

He said that the piles of money the U.S. has sent to Ukraine should instead be used for domestic issues like veteran homelessness.

‘We have all these problems,’ DeSantis lamented. ‘This is the U.N. way of thinking that we’re somehow globalists and we have unlimited resources.’

‘You know, here’s the problem – you can take the ambassador out of the United Nations, but you can’t take the United Nations out of the ambassador.’

Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis is seen front row at Wednesday's debate, sitting beside Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds

Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis is seen front row at Wednesday’s debate, sitting beside Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie held in New Hampshire a town hall just before the debate on Wednesday, where he announced he is suspending his presidential bid

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie held in New Hampshire a town hall just before the debate on Wednesday, where he announced he is suspending his presidential bid

Trump is not participating in the debate, instead opting for a town hall with Fox News at the same time as the showdown between his top competitors

Trump is not participating in the debate, instead opting for a town hall with Fox News at the same time as the showdown between his top competitors

Haley responded by going after DeSantis’ massive spending on his campaign – likely drawing parallels between his bash on U.S. spending for foreign wars.

‘The best way to tell about a candidate is to see how they’ve run their campaign,’ Haley said, noting that her competitor ‘has blown through $150 million’ on his bid for president.

‘I don’t know how you do that, through his campaign. He has nothing to show for it,’ Haley continued. ‘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 a campaign, how are you going to manage a country?’

Meanwhile, Trump has refused to participate in any of the five Republican presidential primary debates – even when they were sanctioned by the Republican National Committee (RNC).

‘I wish Donald Trump was up here on this stage,’ DeSantis said early in the debate. ‘He is the one that I’m running against.’

‘He is the one that I wish would be here. He needs to be defending his record.’

It was the only attack against ex-president Trump, and it came on the heels of an attack against Haley as the two remain in what many see as a race for second place.

After holding the first four Republican presidential primary debates of the cycle last year, the RNC dropped out of the debate business in December. 

It voided a pledge candidates were required to sign vowing only to participate in RNC-sanctioned debates after reports emerged that Trump’s team was pressuring Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel into stopping the showdowns.

CNN immediately stepped up to the plate, scheduling debates in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Wednesday’s debate is the first non-RNC debate of the cycle. 

Although Wednesday’s debate was the first head-to-head between primary candidate, DeSantis had some practice with a one-on-one debate with Gov. Newsom last year on Fox News moderated by Sean Hannity.

But DeSantis claims that Haley is even ‘more liberal’ than the Democratic California leader.

‘I debated the governor of California, Gavin Newsom,’ DeSantis recounted. ‘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.’

DEBATE THRESHOLDS AND WHO QUALIFIED

The qualifying window for CNN’s debate in Iowa closed on Tuesday.

By then, candidates needed to receive at least 10 percent in three separate polls, either nationally or among Republican caucus-goers in Iowa – and at least one had to fall under the latter.

The polls needed to be conducted after October 15 and by January 2 and could only be pulled from 14 of the approved polling sources decided by CNN.

There was no donor-related criteria like in previous debates.

Trump, DeSantis and Haley all met the qualifications. But the ex-president will again not participate in the primary debate, claiming the event is not needed because of his massive polling lead and his belief he is the de facto nominee already.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley will meet on stage at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa on Tuesday for a head-to-head debate – Donald Trump is skipping and Vivek Ramaswamy and Chris Christie didn't qualify

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley will meet on stage at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa on Tuesday for a head-to-head debate – Donald Trump is skipping and Vivek Ramaswamy and Chris Christie didn’t qualify

Ramaswamy, Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson did not meet the qualification requirements.

The polling thresholds for Wednesday’s debate were higher than those of the previous four RNC debates, which saw Ramaswamy and Christie qualifying each time.

The stage Wednesday is the smallest yet – cutting December’s Tuscaloosa, Alabama debate stage in half – and will see for the first time a head-to-head between the candidates many see as in a race for second place.

Haley participated in a Fox News town hall in West Des Moines, Iowa on Monday, followed by DeSantis participating in the same event on Tuesday night after he flew back from Tallahassee following his State of the State address.

DONALD TRUMP AND VIVEK RAMASWAMY’S ALTERNATIVE PLANS

Ex-President Trump joined Fox News hosts Martha McCallum and Bret Baier for the third in the network’s town hall series. The start time coincided exactly when the debate kicked-off at 9:00 PM eastern time. 

It is the fifth time Trump has decided to snub debating his primary competitors despite meeting the thresholds to take the stage.

DeSantis insists Trump is refusing to appear because he doesn’t want to answer for his record and instead wants to attempt to steal the spotlight from his competition.

Meanwhile, Ramaswamy held a ‘live audience show’ with the Tim Pool Podcast at his Iowa campaign headquarters – and held an after party featuring conservative commentator Candace Owens. 

Owens will stick around in Iowa on Thursday to campaign all day with Ramaswamy.

While the show with Pool started at 6:30, the after party conflicted with the Haley v. DeSantis debate. 

Drake University's Olmsted Center is pictured during preparations Tuesday with a plow clearing snow off the sidewalk after a winter storm came through Des Moines days before the caucuses

Drake University’s Olmsted Center is pictured during preparations Tuesday with a plow clearing snow off the sidewalk after a winter storm came through Des Moines days before the caucuses 

Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy did not qualify for the debate. Instead he held a live audience show along with an after party at his Iowa campaign headquarters with Tim Pool and Candace Owens (pictured)

Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy did not qualify for the debate. Instead he held a live audience show along with an after party at his Iowa campaign headquarters with Tim Pool and Candace Owens (pictured) 

A Tuesday poll in New Hampshire puts Nikki Haley only 7 points behind Donald Trump

A Tuesday poll in New Hampshire puts Nikki Haley only 7 points behind Donald Trump

POLLING AHEAD OF DEBATE DAY

DeSantis is still in second place and is trailing Trump by dozens of points.

The former president holds more than 50 percent of the vote among Republicans in Iowa, according to a FiveThirtyEight average of polls in the first primary state.

With 18.4 percent in the average, DeSantis is in a distance second place after polls over the summer showed him separated from Trump by around 20 points – rather than the current 32 percent gap.

Haley is in third with 15.8 percent. She has only gained traction over time in the Hawkeye State and was able to get the gap between her and DeSantis much closer than the 20 point-gap seen last year between the two.

The former South Carolina governor has also skyrocketed to second place in New Hampshire, which holds the second primary with elections on January 23.

Haley is only trailing Trump in New Hampshire by four points in one poll released earlier this month, and by 7 percent in a separate poll published on Tuesday.

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