Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley Gear Up for Pivotal Iowa Debate, Trump Absent, as Primary Race Intensifies

Showdown Preview: DeSantis vs. Haley

The upcoming one-on-one debate between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley in Iowa marks a critical juncture in the Republican primary, scheduled just before the caucuses.

This debate, hosted by CNN and moderated by Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, offers one of the final opportunities for both candidates to appeal to voters and bridge the substantial polling gap behind Donald Trump.

Trump’s Ongoing Absence and Competing Events

Despite meeting the qualifications, Trump has consistently chosen to forego participating in debates, maintaining his significant lead in the polls. He is set to hold a Fox News town hall at the same time as the CNN debate.

Meanwhile, Vivek Ramaswamy, another candidate excluded from the debate, is organizing alternative events, including a podcast show and an after-party coinciding with the debate.

Qualification Criteria and Candidates

To participate in CNN’s debate, candidates were required to meet stringent polling thresholds, a notable change from the previous RNC-sanctioned debates.

While DeSantis and Haley qualified, Trump chose to skip the event, citing his commanding lead. Other candidates like Ramaswamy, Chris Christie, and Asa Hutchinson fell short of meeting the criteria.

Polling Insights and Candidate Positioning

DeSantis trails Trump significantly in the polls, with Trump leading by over 30 points.

Haley follows behind DeSantis, having gained traction in Iowa and emerging as a strong contender in New Hampshire, where she closely trails Trump in recent polls.

Event Details and How to Watch

The CNN debate is set to take place at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, streaming live on CNN’s platforms and channels.

Candidates aim to seize this opportunity to resonate with voters and potentially narrow the extensive lead maintained by Trump in the primary race.

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