Despite trailing Trump by 40 points, Haley and DeSantis spar amongst themselves in GOP debate

Hours after Chris Christie suspended his campaign for president, two of his opponents — Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley — squared off in the first two-person debate of the 2024 Republican primary.

But Donald Trump, who has declined to participate in each of the debates this election cycle, instead chose to appear in a Fox News town hall. With only five days until the Iowa caucuses, and with Trump maintaining a large lead in the state, Haley and DeSantis were given opportunities to explain why they, and not Trump, should be the Republican nominee.

DeSantis and Haley took shots at Trump — then focused the bulk of their attention on each other.

“I think (Trump) was the right president at the right time,” Haley said, when asked if Trump has the character to be president. “I agree with a lot of his policies. But his way is not my way. I don’t have vengeance. I don’t have a vendetta. … For me, it’s very much about no drama, no whining and getting results.”

DeSantis, when asked the same question, said he “appreciated what President Trump did” as president, but that he “didn’t deliver” on his promises, like building a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border and “drain(ing) the swamp.”

Both candidates were quick to call out each other for alleged dishonesty. Haley repeatedly pointed viewers to DeSantisLies.com, a new site her campaign launched disputing the Florida governor’s statements about her. And DeSantis encouraged viewers to visit his own campaign website, RonDeSantis.com, which has a prominently placed video promising to expose “the real Nikki Haley.”

This story will be updated throughout the debate.

How to watch

Time: 7 p.m. MT

Location: Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa

TV: CNN

Streaming: CNN.com

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