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DeSantis seeks to regain lost ground in high-stakes Alabama debate

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) faces high stakes ahead of next week’s Republican primary debate in Alabama, as he looks to make up for lost ground in the final weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

The forum, hosted by NewsNation (a news organization owned by Nexstar Inc., which also owns The Hill), featured former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who posed a major threat to DeSantis in the Iowa and New Hampshire polls. It was held in the midst of What’s more, Ms. Haley appears to be gaining support not only from her donor base but also from Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a powerful group aligned with Ms. Koch.

The primary debate also comes on the heels of Mr. DeSantis taking part in an unusual televised debate on Thursday with Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is not running for president but has fueled White House speculation.

During the Fox News event, both men were able to take multiple jabs at each other, with DeSantis accusing Newsom of running a “shadow campaign” for the president and calling his California opponent a “liberal A bully,” while Newsom mocked DeSantis over his delays. Those are the numbers from a poll asking Florida’s governor when she would withdraw from the race to give Haley “a chance to defeat Donald Trump.”

DeSantis’ performance, like Newsom’s, was generally well received by members of his party at the end of the night.

“He needs to carry on the momentum from last night’s Gavin Newsom debate, where he came out as a very substantive figure,” said Ford O’Connell, a Florida-based Republican strategist.

“Go after Nikki Haley like Gavin Newsom tried to go after you,” he added.

The Newsom debate was friendly territory for DeSantis, considering Fox News host Sean Hannity himself calls himself a conservative. The forum was also an opportunity for Mr. DeSantis to contrast his record as governor of Florida, which has trended red in recent years, with Mr. Newsom’s work in California, a reliably blue state.

But DeSantis faces a much different environment heading into next week’s debate, where he will share the stage with Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and others. As of Friday, it was unclear whether former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would be eligible to appear on stage.

“I don’t think most people think that Mr. Vivec could be the party’s nominee or that he could be an alternative to Mr. Trump, so I don’t think Governor DeSantis is asking why he is the party’s best alternative candidate. “I think there’s an opportunity to show that there’s more President Trump than Nikki Haley,” said Justin Safey, a Florida-based Republican strategist.

DeSantis has been competing for second place with Haley for months, and she has been steadily gaining ground on him in the polls after strong performances in several debates. Polls in New Hampshire show Haley surging to second place, while recent polls in Iowa show her tied with DeSantis. According to the RealClearPolitics national polling average, Trump is in first place with 62% support, DeSantis is second with 13.6% support, and Haley is third with 9.6% support.

“Governor. Mr. DeSantis is still the only candidate close to a front-runner,” said Dan Everhart, a DeSantis donor. “Although there were movements within the group, the basic ranking of the leading group remained unchanged.”

Mr. Everhart urged Mr. DeSantis to take an aggressive stance against Mr. Trump in order to maintain his No. 2 position.

“DeSantis shouldn’t be punching down,” Everhart said. “He needs to target the front-runner, and when he’s not doing that, he’s thinking about what he’s going to do for voters if he becomes president.” “We need to tell voters directly what we intend to do,” he said, adding that he was “in a war of words with Mr. Ramaswamy and Ms. Haley.” It just elevates them. ”

But other Republicans say DeSantis should take Haley head on, given the recent praise she has received from donors and non-populist Republicans.

“I guess you want to portray Nikki Haley as not being America First,” O’Connell said. “The point is not that she is on the side of American workers, but that she is on the side of Wall Street.”

In addition to receiving support from AFP this week, Haley also received praise from JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. Dimon said Wednesday that Democrats should support Haley’s presidential bid, saying she is “better than Trump.”

Meanwhile, President Trump criticized Dimon in a post on Truth Social, calling him “overrated.”

“JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, a highly overrated globalist, is quietly endorsing another non-MAGA, Nikki Haley, for president,” Trump wrote. “I was never a big fan of Jamie Dimon, but I had to live with him when he came to the White House begging.”

Mr. Safie pointed out that winning the support of the wealthiest Americans in the Republican primary won’t translate into much support from primary voters.

Trump and DeSantis have, and continue to appeal to many of the same populist Republican voters throughout their political careers. October NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom The survey found that 67 percent of potential Republican caucus participants in Iowa said they were considering both Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Trump.

And while Ms. Haley’s supporters argue that she has broad appeal to Republicans from all walks of life, other Republicans say that Ms. Trump and Mr. DeSantis have more appeal to the party’s populist base. claim to reflect.

“I was a supporter of Jeb Bush in 2016 and saw it happen,” Seifi said. “He had the money, he had the resources, he had the support, he had the organizational structure. He had everything. He checked all the boxes.”

“The only path to the nomination is from the populist wing of the party. End of story,” he said.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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