Haley and DeSantis will face off in GOP debate hours after Christie exits race. Follow live updates

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are set to face off in the first one-on-one debate of the 2024 election cycle, while former President Donald Trump participates in a town hall at the same time.

The competing Wednesday night events in Iowa come just five days before the state’s leadoff presidential caucuses and as the candidates are issuing last-minute appeals to voters to turn out for the Jan. 15 contest, which could be the coldest caucus night ever.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who didn’t qualify for the debate, dropped out of the race Wednesday in a late effort to blunt Trump’s momentum heading into Iowa.

What to know

How to watch the fifth GOP presidential debate

Urgency could spark fireworks at the Haley-DeSantis debate

The debate could help decide the Republican alternative to Trump

Christie drops out of the race

Feeling caucus confusion? Your guide to how Iowa works

What’s at stake for Republicans in Iowa?

For Republicans, there are usually two prizes in the Iowa caucuses: delegates and bragging rights.

Iowa Republican voters will indicate their picks for the party’s presidential nominee next Monday, and the results of that vote will determine how many of the state’s 40 convention delegates each candidate will receive.

Candidates win national convention delegates in direct proportion to the percentage of the vote they receive. There is no minimum threshold required to qualify for delegates.

For Democrats, nothing is at stake, since the 2024 caucuses will have no bearing on the presidential race.

Dozens of vehicles stranded after Iowa snowstorm

An AP reporter driving from Des Moines to Davenport for a Trump campaign event spotted dozens of cars and trucks stranded along the side of Interstate 80, a major artery through Iowa.

A couple of trucks were on their side, while other vehicles had crashed into a barrier along the median.

Candidates were forced to cancel their events earlier in the week when heavy snow hit the leadoff caucus state. Vivek Ramaswamy said his car got stuck in a ditch while driving in snowy weather Monday night to Des Moines from northwest Iowa.

Trump and DeSantis agree: Haley will ‘get smoked’

Trump and DeSantis don’t agree on much but do find common ground on one thing: Christie’s parting shot at Haley.

Trump said Wednesday that he might “even get to like” Christie again after the departing presidential candidate was caught on a hot mic saying that Haley was “going to get smoked” and was “not up to this.”

DeSantis’ sentiment in a post on X was similar: “I agree with Christie that Nikki Haley is ‘going to get smoked.’”

Haley, meanwhile, was gracious in her well wishes for Christie, calling her former fellow governor “a friend for many years” and commending him “on a hard-fought campaign.”

Hot mic moment before Christie drops out

Christie was caught on a hot mic bashing Haley moments before he ended his campaign at a New Hampshire town hall.

“She’s going to get smoked,” he said of Haley, adding: “She’s not up to this.”

He also said that former Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had called him, “petrified” that he was going to endorse Haley, but the hot mic was cut before he finished speaking.

Christie also appeared to defend his performance in the race as Trump continues to dominate.

“People don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to hear it. We know we’re right, but they don’t want to hear it,” he said. “We couldn’t have been any clearer. We couldn’t have been any more direct or worked any harder.”

Stakes are high for Haley and DeSantis

Haley and DeSantis have spent much of the Republican presidential primary flanked by lower-polling rivals, so the stakes are high for the former U.N. ambassador and the Florida governor at Wednesday’s debate.

The moment is especially important for Haley, a politician long known for her disciplined approach to messaging but who has recently suffered a series of gaffes.

Oops!

DeSantis left an important item in Florida when he flew back to Iowa after delivering his State of the State address Tuesday.

“I actually do have a winter coat,” DeSantis told a construction contractors convention in Des Moines on Wednesday. “And I forgot it. I left it at home.”

The temperatures for Iowa were below freezing and headed to below zero through Monday’s caucuses. DeSantis told the crowd that his staff was hustling his coat from Tallahassee before he headed up to even-chillier northwest Iowa on Thursday.

“I think I’ll need much more than that,” he said. “I think I’m going to need the earmuffs and all that stuff.”

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