All Eyes on Haley, DeSantis as GOP Hopefuls Gear Up for Debate

President Trump, who leads the current second-place candidate by 49 points according to a recent survey, will not attend.

AP/Rebecca Blackwell
Ambassador Nikki Haley and Governor DeSantis at a Republican presidential primary debate on November 8, 2023, at Miami. AP/Rebecca Blackwell

Wednesday, Republican presidential hopefuls will gather in Alabama for the fourth GOP presidential primary debate as they compete to set themselves apart as the premier alternative to President Trump.

The debate, to be held between 8 and 10 pm EST at Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will be hosted by NewsNation and will be moderated by a former Fox News and NBC host, Megyn Kelly, NewsNation anchor Elizabeth Vargas, and the editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon, Eliana Johnson.

The number of candidates onstage will be smaller than previous debates, with only four candidates meeting the debate requirements — Governor DeSantis, Ambassador Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and Governor Christie.

The committee raised the bar to appear on stage for the fourth debate, requiring candidates to show proof of donations from at least 80,000 unique donors, including 200 donors from at least 20 states and territories. 

Candidates must also meet the polling requirement, reaching at least 6 percent support in two national polls or one national poll and two state-level polls in one of the first four primary states, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.

At the debate, all eyes will be focused on Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Haley as they compete to be the number-one alternative to Mr. Trump in the primary.

Ms. Haley’s campaign enjoyed a boost last week when she received the endorsement of the influential conservative fundraising network Americans for Prosperity.

Mr. DeSantis’s campaign has been on a downward trajectory for months, with his support peaking in the polls early this year before he even officially launched his campaign.

The candidate who is far and away the frontrunner in the campaign, Mr. Trump, will once again skip the debate. However, unlike previous debates, he has not publicly announced any counterprogramming that will air during the debate.

On the stage, watch for Ms. Haley to be defending herself against attacks from both Mr. DeSantis, who has launched a new wave of criticism against her since the AFP endorsement, and Mr. Ramaswamy, who has positioned himself as an antagonist of Ms. Haley’s in previous debates.

Last week, Mr. DeSantis criticized Ms. Haley on Fox News for not accepting Mr. DeSantis’s challenge to debate him one-on-one, saying that “she probably wouldn’t like what the debate would be about.”

“I mean, I think she has taken very, very establishment-oriented positions,” Mr.DeSantis said. “I’ll debate any of these folks. I think that’s what it is all about.”

A NewsNation and Decision Desk HQ survey conducted ahead of the debate found that Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Haley are virtually tied in their competition for second place with 11 percent and 10 percent support, respectively.

Mr. Trump meanwhile enjoys 60 percent support, according to the survey. Mr. Ramaswamy has 6 percent support, and Mr. Christie has 3 percent support nationally, according to the poll.

The debate will be aired live on NewsNation and TheCW on TV and will also be streamed on Rumble and Sirius XM.


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