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CNN’s Iowa Republican Debate was the Beginning of the 2028 Presidential Cycle – HotAir

The CNN debate between Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley was ok but it wasn’t what I hoped it would be. The winner was Ron DeSantis.

The debate with the two candidates was one that people have wanted for a long time. They are competing for second place in the Iowa caucus, to be honest. I don’t see either overcoming the big lead that Trump has, but I won’t rule anything out at this point. This has been a weird political cycle, with the two frontrunners, Trump and Biden, barely campaigning. They refuse to debate. The Democrat primary was rigged by the DNC to assure that Biden doesn’t have to break a sweat. The Democrat primary starts in South Carolina this time so as to guarantee Biden wins. Trump won’t agree to debate the other Republicans because of his strong lead and he feels entitled to the nomination.

Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley went round after round for two hours. The CNN moderators were Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Credit where credit is due – they both did a good job and asked questions of interest to Republican primary voters. That’s more than most of the other debates were able to accomplish. They kept both candidates in line with the time restrictions. And, they did not repeatedly chastise the audience for applauding. It’s a debate. The audience is excited. Some applause isn’t the end of the world.

DeSantis got the first question and he came in hot. The criticism of Haley began right away. Then Haley did the same when it was her turn to respond. That continued throughout the debate. Both candidates slammed the other one over past actions in office to try to draw a contrast between them. I will say that Haley was more aggressive in using every answer to deliver a dig at DeSantis.

I think DeSantis won but Haley did pretty well. Her downfall was her obsessive references to her website that she claims fact checks the ‘lies’ DeSantis tells against her – “DeSantis Lies Dot Com.” Especially up to the first half of the debate, she incorporated that website into every answer. It was obnoxious. The audience was audibly groaning by the second half of the debate whenever she mentioned the website. It began to come off as petty and lazy. Why not just say why DeSantis is lying instead of pointing voters to a website?

There were two moments that irritated me because both of these candidates knew better. One against each of them. For Nikki, it was when she did an eyeroll when DeSantis mentioned his military service. Really, Nikki? She rightly talks of being proud of her husband’s military career and the fact that he is deployed overseas now. Why would she mock DeSantis or try to lessen the importance of his veteran status? It was disrespectful and it created a stir in social media.

Our colleague at Red State noticed it, too.

The moment that irritated me with DeSantis was when he was criticizing Haley and talking about debating California Governor Gavin Newsom because he thinks Newsom is running a shadow campaign for president. He wanted to show he would win the debate, as we all know he did. But then DeSantis randomly said Haley may be more liberal than Newsom. That was dumb. Haley may bother some Republicans because she is a more moderate Republican than others but she’s not bat crap crazy and more so than Gavin Newsom. DeSantis has to do better than that. That kind of ad lib is beneath him.

I know that either candidate could defeat Joe Biden in a debate. This debate ran smoothly and the moderators kept it moving. Do I think Joe Biden can stand on a stage to debate a Republican candidate for 2 hours? No. I don’t think he is physically or mentally able to do so. If the race is between Biden and Trump, I don’t expect any debates between those two.

I wish that DeSantis and Haley had gone after Trump more than either did. They did agree that Trump should have been on that stage to answer questions from his time in office. And I wish they had gone after Biden more.

I think we were watching the beginning of the 2028 presidential cycle. Unless something drastic happens, Trump will come in first in the early primary races. I expect DeSantis to come in second in Iowa and Haley to come in second in New Hampshire. Trump is also leading in South Carolina, Haley’s home state. I hope I’m wrong on all that. I’d love to have DeSantis accomplish an upset in Iowa (Trump didn’t win Iowa in 2016) and Haley to do the same in New Hampshire. Haley is getting very close to Trump in some polls – within single digits – so maybe she will pull that off.

I know that if DeSantis had performed as he did Wednesday night in the first RNC debate, he would be much better off in the polls. He is hitting his stride now in these debates and shows a whole new level of confidence. He is a policy wonk and can talk at length about many issues. Haley sometimes begins to crater and sounds like she has trouble filling her time without relying on her standard talking points.

The final question was to give the candidates a chance to say something they like about the other one. DeSantis talked about Haley being the former governor of South Carolina and how great the people are in South Carolina. He said that his wife, Casey, went to the College of Charleston. When Haley’s turn came, she gave a one sentence response. She said DeSantis is a good governor. Everyone chuckled because it was such a short answer. It was odd, too, because she spent the whole debate slamming his actions as governor. It was a dumb question but it seems to be a trend to put the candidates on the spot at the end of a debate.

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