DES MOINES, Iowa — Likely Iowa caucusgoers trying to decide whether Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) or former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is the better alternative to former President Donald Trump may need more information before next week’s opening contest.
Trump’s absence was felt in the small debate room at Drake University as the front-runner participated in a televised town hall across Des Moines on rival cable network Fox News.
“I wish Donald Trump was up here on this stage,” Haley said Wednesday at the CNN debate. “He’s the one that I’m running against.”
DeSantis and Haley, who are both trailing Trump by an average of 30-plus percentage points, were reluctant at first to criticize the front-runner as they court his supporters before Jan. 15 on the campaign trail and during Wednesday’s final debate on CNN. But they did scrutinize his immigration, economic, and law enforcement record, before undercutting