ALTOONA, Iowa (AP) — Nikki Haley denounced Republican presidential rival Ron DeSantis in Iowa Sunday for campaigning in the state with Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, the lone House Republican who voted last week against a GOP resolution condemning antisemitism on university campuses.
“You can’t be pro-Israel and bring the most anti-Israel Republican into this state, who voted against fighting antisemitism on college campuses,” Haley said. “And that’s who he brought to your state.”
Coming at the end of a campaign event at a suburban Des Moines bar and grill, Haley’s criticism of DeSantis for campaigning with Massie on Saturday marks the increased pressure for the two to emerge from Iowa as the stronger alternative to former President Donald Trump.
Trump is the heavy favorite to win Iowa’s leadoff caucuses on Jan. 15. Last week at a campaign event in eastern Iowa, Trump stressed that an Iowa blowout would help him rally the party early in the 2024 voting. “The margin of victory is very important, it’s just very important,” Trump told his audience in Coralville.
DeSantis and Haley have increasingly sparred publicly, as they have during debates, while ads by groups supporting each have sought to stall the other’s movement in Iowa with less than a month until the caucuses.
DeSantis campaigned in Iowa with Massie when the two headlined a town hall-style event geared toward gun rights policy in Johnston, Iowa, a northern Des Moines suburb.
Massie has previously critiqued antisemitism-related legislation as restricting free speech, voting against related GOP-sponsored resolutions since the Israel-Hamas war began.
Support for Israel is a top priority for most Republicans, especially evangelical Christians who form an influential bloc in the Iowa GOP and many of whom believe Jews are God’s chosen people and that Israel is their rightful homeland.
DeSantis has called for U.S. support of Israel, touted his effort from Florida to deliver medical supplies to the country and evacuate hundreds of Americans from Israel in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack led by Hamas. DeSantis has also called for the destruction of Hamas.
DeSantis’ campaign dismissed the criticism of campaigning with Massie.
“Ron DeSantis has been the clearest, most consistent pro-Israel candidate in the race,” DeSantis’ campaign press secretary Bryan Griffin said. “He has unequivocally supported Israel in exterminating Hamas.”
Haley has called on Israel to “finish them,” referring to Hamas, the group responsible for the Oct. 7 attack.
Thomas Beaumont, The Associated Press