Whether that’s reality or not is ultimately a question open to subjective interpretation, but all appearances are that an energized DeSantis operation is focused on dispatching Haley.
“Count me in,” the Governor posted to X Wednesday, in response to a Laura Ingraham call for Haley and DeSantis to debate on her program.
It’s uncertain why Haley would agree to a debate on likely unfriendly terrain, given that the Fox News host accused the former South Carolina Governor of “political suicide” last week after she got praise from the center after her performance in the presidential debate in Miami.
“There’s no future in the Republican Party for someone who’s been endorsed by POLITICO and The New York Times,” Ingraham pronounced, as transcribed by Media Matters.
Conversely, Ingraham lauded DeSantis, saying he emerged “strongest” from the debate and was the only candidate with a “presidential” mien.
Beyond agreeing to a debate with a prearranged outcome, DeSantis and his adjuncts have pressed Haley on her proposal to require registration to use social media, which she says is a “national security” concern given foreign malefactors online.
“Once again, Nikki Haley admits she’s out of touch on a key issue and then runs for cover when the heat gets turned up on her,” campaign Press Secretary Bryan Griffin contended.
“But it’s no wonder she’s running from this one. This idea harkens back to the ‘Russian disinformation’ charade pushed by the DC establishment and corporate media as a pretext for censoring dissent. And it would lay the groundwork for CCP-style, dangerous government overreach like social credit scores.”
The rhetorical flourishes continued from the spokesman.
“No matter how she tries to spin it, Haley can’t take back her ‘Day One’ plan to have the government strip Americans of their First Amendment rights, just like she can’t take back her record of rolling out the red carpet for China, refusing to block men from using women’s bathrooms, pushing a gas tax, and siding with BLM rioters,” Griffin said.
DeSantis also accused Haley of a stance more in line with Beijing than Americans.
“Forcing disclosure of names and registration, that’s what China has done. China did that recently. That is totally inappropriate for the United States of America,” he said on Wednesday’s Glenn Beck Show.
DeSantis also asserted that Haley’s “totally unacceptable” proposal gives a window into who she is, adding that it places her outside the mainstream in the GOP.
“I wasn’t surprised she said it because I think that’s just who she is, but it was totally out of bounds of what would be acceptable in the Republican Party,” DeSantis asserted.
DeSantis clearly hopes the Haley social media snafu can reverse a troubling trend. It comes as donors seem to be moving toward her at his expense, including Citadel’s Ken Griffin. Griffin was a big supporter of DeSantis through his re-election bid, but appears to be leaning toward deploying some of his over $30 billion net worth for Haley after becoming disenchanted with various DeSantis sops to social conservatives.
The Governor is telling friendly reporters it’s because he can’t be controlled and she is a puppet.
“This is just a pattern with, kind of, how she does things, doesn’t stand up when it matters, (and) is basically catering to the more liberal Republican donor class now,” he said on Monday’s Mark Levin Show.
DeSantis continued to vent about how donors are moving away from him because he’s just too ideologically pure for them.
“They just want a candidate that they’re able to control. So when they need something, they’re able to say you need to do this. Whereas with me, you know, there have been articles written the whole year about how donors are frustrated that I’m standing on principles such as when we’re standing up to Disney about keeping sexualization of our curriculum out of Florida schools, particularly for these young grades,” DeSantis said.
The problem has been spotlighted by political commentators, including those once bullish on his approach.
During an interview on the Fox News Channel, Karl Rove suggested that the momentum is with Haley.
“She was at 6 points in the Iowa poll in August. By the beginning of October, she was tied at 16 with DeSantis, who declined from 19 to 16 over that same period. My sense is that Haley’s probably a few points ahead of him today,” Rove said on “America’s Newsroom” Tuesday morning.
Rove is referring to the leading public poll this month in his analysis. The Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll conducted late last month showed DeSantis and Haley tied at 16%, with Trump at 43%.
That survey’s results were effectively corroborated by a Trafalgar Group survey conducted between Nov. 3-5, in which Trump’s 44% support is more than the aggregate backing for DeSantis (18%), Haley (15%) and Tim Scott (9%), who has since exited the presidential race.
Rove is bullish on Haley in the wake of her performance in the third presidential debate of the campaign cycle, which was held last week in Miami.
“We have evidence that she has moved because of the debates and the third debate. I think everybody agreed she did really well, you know, in large part because (Vivek Ramaswamy) kept coming after her in completely illogical and inappropriate ways and giving her a great chance to counter punch,” Rove said.
Rove offered an illustrative axiom from there.
“In politics, a punch hurts sometimes, but a counterpunch can work far more effectively most times, and she took advantage of it.”
While Rove noted Ramaswamy’s role in elevating Haley, she also benefited from winning exchanges with DeSantis throughout the Miami event.
China was a point of contention, with Haley swiping at DeSantis, wondering if “Ron” would “end formal trade relations with” them given fentanyl.
DeSantis said that he would build up the Navy to respond to the Soviet-level threat to “the future of freedom” from Beijing, before presenting contrast with his rival in the first counterattack of the night, 45 minutes into the event. He noted that Haley “welcomed” China into South Carolina, contrasting that with Florida’s new ban on Chinese land purchases.
Haley brought it back to land purchases, contending that Enterprise Florida recruited Chinese businesses and that Chinese companies were “expanding” in Florida.
“You gave them stuff. I didn’t give them anything. And I abolished Enterprise Florida,” DeSantis said, eliding the fact that the organization thrived in the state for more than four years, facilitating two foreign trade missions for DeSantis, one in 2019 to Israel and another one this year just before he launched his presidential campaign.
Haley then attacked the “liberal” DeSantis for his opposition to “fracking,” a major issue in the 2018 gubernatorial campaign that was put into the state constitution by Florida voters that year, and strengthened by an early executive order from the Governor compelling the Department of Environmental Protection to end the practice.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to drill in the Florida Everglades,” DeSantis said. “And I know most Floridians agree with me.”
He will, however, frack in other places, he made clear.
Haley summarily swatted at DeSantis on Social Security and Medicare, saying “Ron and Trump” have “joined Biden and Nancy Pelosi and saying they won’t do entitlement reform.” (Pelosi is no longer Speaker of the House, of course).
DeSantis dodged the question, which was a talking point from the Trump campaign earlier this year (with the former President calling him a “wheelchair over the cliff kind of guy” for supporting entitlement cuts last decade). He noted, as he has before, that Social Security is important to today’s “seniors” amid today’s “rising prices” and “inflation.”
In the third debate or the other two, Haley has more than held her own with the Governor. Here, she is in a double bind. She can agree to a fight with a biased referee. Or she can not debate him and be accused of ducking the event.