Two Republicans will try to present themselves as the best alternative to heavy favorite Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election in a televised face-to-face meeting on Wednesday less than a week before primaries begin.
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Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, who are well ahead of Donald Trump in the polls for the Republican nomination, are playing a game of double-or-nothing in this final debate before Iowa voters go to the polls.
Because a good election result on Monday in this small state with a lot at stake would serve as a springboard for them to hope to catch Donald Trump and defy the predictions.
In a rant before the face-to-face interview, Nikki Haley accused Ron DeSantis of “lying about losing” after he claimed his rival was inspired by Hillary Clinton, the former Democratic presidential candidate.
The other Republican candidates enter the race with so little momentum that they haven't even met the party's criteria for participating in this debate in Des Moines.
Trump stands aside
For his part, Donald Trump again decided not to take part because he believed that his lead was too large and that he had nothing to gain by exposing himself to a possible flood of criticism.
But he once again moved to organize counter-programming, broadcasting a campaign event in the same city on the conservative channel Fox News while his two rivals debated on CNN.
- Listen to Luc Lavoie's analysis on Yasmine Abdelfadel's microphone QUB :
That stance earned him a swipe from his former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who said in a press release that “it's time for Donald Trump to show up.” “The smaller the field of debaters gets, the harder it will be for him to hide,” asserted the former South Carolina governor.
Ron DeSantis has also criticized him on this point, recently saying, “He comes to give speeches for half an hour or an hour and leaves instead of listening to the people of Iowa and answering their questions.”
Still, the former president is likely reassured by a new poll (Suffolk University/USA TODAY) that suggests 51% of Republican voters don't want to watch this debate, a sign that the proposed poster may be lacking a little taste.
According to poll aggregator RealClearPolitics, Trump is leading in Iowa with 52.3% of voting intentions, well ahead of Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis with around 16% each.
Nationwide, the entrepreneur is credited with 51.5%.
- Listen to the American political column with Professor Luc Laliberté about QUB :
Springboard for Haley
His lead does not weaken despite the legal proceedings against him, whose calendar is almost intertwined with that of the primaries. On the contrary, the tycoon has integrated indictments and trials into his campaign strategy, even going so far as to use his mugshot on mugs and T-shirts.
On Tuesday, he appeared before the federal appeals court in Washington, which is considering his request for criminal immunity as a former president. And on Thursday he will be back in front of the New York court, which is suing him in a civil case alleging fraud in the leadership of the Trump Organization.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was once portrayed as a serious threat to Donald Trump and never managed to emerge from it.
So much so that he is now trying to stay in touch with Nikki Haley, Donald Trump's rival with the most wind in his sails, and his future almost inevitably includes a very solid result in Iowa.
For Nikki Haley, a good showing in Iowa would be an ideal springboard for the next election on January 23 in New Hampshire, where independent voters can vote in the Republican primary. The latter could favor him more than Trump, potentially tightening the race.
Without having a perfect campaign, Nikki Haley is showing enough support, money raised and good poll numbers to now face attacks from Trump and his allies who had previously ignored her.