Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis pummel each other in ad war in final weeks before Iowa caucus

Nikki Haley’s allies are running ads in Iowa casting Gov. Ron DeSantis as a Trump wannabee and mocking his campaign as a “dumpster fire.”

Mr. DeSantis’ political pals are firing back with TV ads warning that Ms. Haley is a flip-flopper on key issues. They’ve dubbed her “Tricky Nikki.”

Former President Donald Trump, meanwhile, is focusing his fire on President Biden, blaming the Democrat for creating a mess at the US-Mexico border that has left the nation vulnerable to an attack.

“While the world burns, Joe Biden has created a violent threat in our own backyard,” a male narrator says in the Trump ad. “Biden’s open border has opened the floodgates to record numbers, including terrorists, fentanyl traffickers, and raises the possibility of a Hamas attack.”

“President Trump had our borders secured and he’ll do it again by building even more wall and stopping people from terrorist countries from ever entering,” the narrator says.

Voters in the early primary states have grown accustomed to the onslaught of candidates duking it out over the television and radio airwaves.

AdImpact, a nonpartisan ad tracker, has projected that $10.2 billion will be spent across broadcast, cable, radio, satellite, digital and CTV — including $2.7 billion in presidential spending.

The overall spending would eclipse the record-setting $9.02 billion spent in the 2020 election cycle. As of September, more than $100 million had been spent in the GOP presidential primary, which is faster than any previous cycle.

The spending highlights the fight for the voters’ attention, playing out during commercial breaks where candidates compete with ads for everything from car deals to restaurant lunch specials and jewelry sales.

The ad wars, however, cooled slightly Wednesday when Vivek Ramaswamy canceled the ads he had planned for the early states.

Adimpact announced days earlier the Never Back Down super PAC backing Mr. DeSantis canceled $2.5 million in reserved ad time in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The DeSantis campaign did not respond to multiple requests for a list of ads it is currently running.

The candidates are running out of time to sway voters. The Jan. 15 Iowa caucus and the Jan. 23 New Hampshire first-in-the-nation primary will test whether Mr. Trump will face a serious challenger or prove to be an unstoppable force.

Mr. Trump has maintained strong leads in both states, sparking an intense battle for second place between Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Haley.

The pro-DeSants Fight Right super PAC is looking to plant seeds of doubts in the minds of voters over whether Ms. Haley can be trusted and is airing an ad featuring video clips of Ms. Haley delivering contradictory statements on raising the gas tax, cutting U.S. funding for the U.N. and her vision of China.

“When you read Nikki’s lips, what you a reading is fiction,” a female narrator says in an ad. “You can’t trust Tricky Nikki.”

The pro-Haley SFA Fund, Inc. is hitting back with an ad of its own.

“In a world consumed by chaos, Ron DeSantis is another disaster,” a female narrator says before ridiculing his campaign as a “dumpster fire” and saying his style is about “trying to out-Trump Trump.”

“Phony and failing a weaker nominee than Trump. Ron de Santis too lame to lead, too weak to win,” the ad says.

The Haley campaign also is running a spot that takes a public swipe at Mr. Biden and a thinly veiled jab at Mr. Trump.

“I’ll just say it: Biden’s too old and Congress is the most exclusive nursing home in America,” she says to the camera. “Washington keeps failing because politicians from yesterday cannot lead us into tomorrow.”

“We have to lead behind the chaos and drama of the past with a new generation and a new conservative president,” she says.

The Trump campaign has had some fun irking his rivals. 

He has run a national ad featuring clips of Mr. DeSantis praising him as president. He also has an ad in Iowa filled with footage of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a DeSantis backer, commending Mr. Trump for cutting taxes, slashing regulations, strengthening the border and helping farmers.

“The Midwest has a partner in the White House with President Donald Trump,” Ms. Reynolds says in the ad.

The spot omits the fact Ms. Reynolds is backing Mr. Ron DeSantis. Ms. Reynolds called the TV ad “misleading.”

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