Why Is Nikki Haley Refusing to Commit to CNN Iowa Debate?

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

Axios reported that the CNN debate in Iowa may not happen because Nikki Haley has not committed to participating. The reason that is a problem is because Vivek Ramaswamy and Chris Christie are not on track to qualify. That leaves Ron DeSantis.


Donald Trump could rescue the debate if he would agree to debate DeSantis. It’s the debate we’ve been waiting for. We’ve also been waiting for a DeSantis versus Haley debate. If Trump agreed to debate, Haley would jump at the chance to participate. The debate is on January 10, with the Iowa caucuses to be held on January 15. Trump is far ahead of the others and doesn’t think he has to debate. Don’t look for him to start now.

Haley sounds hypocritical, though, as she trashes Trump while doing what she criticizes him of doing.

Haley has been noncommittal on the prospect of facing one-on-one DeSantis ahead of Iowa, even as she has also been calling on Trump to break his debate boycott.

Haley told local Iowa TV station KTIV on Friday: “When it comes to President Trump as well, I think he’s going to have to get on a debate stage here in Iowa because you’re fighting for Iowans’ votes. I think he’s got to sit there and do the groundwork.”
“You can’t have an election and not appear on a debate stage in front of the people who are going to be voting for you,” she argued.

She calls on Trump to “get on a debate stage” while she is keeping her distance on the CNN debate. This debate is not an RNC-sponsored debate. The RNC has paused its debates and this allows candidates to participate in non-sanctioned forums.


Candidates have to poll at 10% or higher in three national polls or Iowa polls. At least one poll must be from Iowa. Christie won’t qualify. He’s solely focused on New Hampshire. He may qualify in the CNN debate in New Hampshire, though.

Ramaswamy wants to participate but he hasn’t hit 10% in a major public Iowa poll. He was at 5% in the NBC News/Des Moines Register poll released on Monday.

The DeSantis campaign points to his performance at the last RNC debate. He was seen as the clear winner while Haley had her worst performance during that debate. She just seemed off that night. Haley’s campaign, though, said that since the RNC stopped scheduling debates, she has lots of new offers to check out. They want Trump to be on the stage. New offers for what? More campaign speeches?

DeSantis saw his number grow by three points in Iowa polling after the last debate. Trump grew by 8 and he didn’t participate in the debate. Nikki Haley’s number remained stagnant. She remains in third place in Iowa.

While Haley was busy calling out Trump, DeSantis criticized Haley.

The candidate happy to debate anyone? That is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. He was quick to accept CNN’s invitation to debate in both Iowa and New Hampshire. And after he mixed it up with California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a Fox News exhibition, the DeSantis campaign called out Haley for not immediately agreeing to appear on stage again.

“Ron DeSantis has accepted every major debate and won each of them,” said Bryan Griffin, a spokesman for the governor’s campaign, who pointed to the Newsom contest as proof that DeSantis could take Republicans the distance in a general election and claimed that DeSantis “caused Nikki Haley to shrink into the backdrop” during their previous clash in Tuscaloosa last week.


Fair enough. Whether before Iowa or not, the field will shrink again and eventually it will be DeSantis and Haley versus Trump. Haley is going to have to face DeSantis one-on-one at some point.

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