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Highlights From the GOP Debate Between DeSantis and Haley

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Republican presidential candidates Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis faced off Wednesday evening in the fifth GOP primary debate, which came days ahead of the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses.


The debate, hosted by CNN at Drake University, saw the two spar on key issues, including abortion, foreign policy, immigration, and more. 

Below are some highlights from the event. 

On immigration, Gov. Ron DeSantis, like former President Trump, vowed to carry out a mass deportation event if elected, calling the immigration crisis “a ticking time bomb.”

“They all have to go back. We have to enforce the rule of law in this country,” he said. "We cannot do an amnesty in this country.” 

Haley also agreed, saying “you have to deport them.” 

On abortion, while the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. argued she’s "unapologetically pro-life,” she criticized Republican men for how they’re speaking about the issue. 

"These fellas don't know how to talk about abortion," she said. "I've said over and over again. The Democrats put fear in women on abortion. And Republicans have used judgment. This is too personal of an issue to put fear or judgment." 

DeSantis, meanwhile, said Haley is “confused” on the issue.

“I think she’s trying to speak to different groups with different things. But when she says things like, ‘Pro-lifers need to stop talking about throwing women in jail,’ that’s a trope. No one I’ve ever met thinks that that’s something that’s appropriate,” DeSantis said.


On foreign policy, Haley stood firm in her support of Ukraine, while DeSantis was more in line with primary voters who want less involvement in the conflict. 

Haley, meanwhile, accused DeSantis of flip-flopping on Ukraine.

On Israel, while the two expressed support for the country's actions in its war against Hamas, jabs came out from both sides with Haley calling out DeSantis for bringing Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), whom she called the "most anti-Israel Republican," to Iowa. 


Haley also hit DeSantis for how he's run his campaign after the governor criticized her leadership abilities. 

“The best way to tell about a candidate is to see how they run their campaign,” Haley said. 

“He has blown through 150 million dollars,” she added. “I don’t even know how you do that.”

“He has nothing to show for it. He’s spent more money on private planes than he has on commercials trying to get Iowans to vote for him. If you can’t manage a campaign, how are you going to manage a country?” Haley continued.

On Trump, both candidates agreed he should have been there.

“I wish Donald Trump was up here on this stage, he’s the one I’m running against," Haley said. 

DeSantis argued Trump "owes it" to "the people of Iowa" to explain his positions on transgenderism, building a new FBI building, "why he didn’t build the wall and why he added $7.8 trillion to the debt.”

The 45th president was a few miles away participating in a town hall event with Fox News. He has far surpassed Haley and DeSantis in support among Iowa voters, pulling in 53.3 percent on average compared to Haley's 18 percent and DeSantis's 15.5 percent, according to RealClearPolitics

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