ANKENY, Iowa (AP) — Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley revived some of the debate-stage critiques she leveled against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as she campaigned in Iowa on Thursday, even as some of her supporters said they didn’t think her performance the night before had been her strongest.
With just days to go before Iowa’s leadoff GOP caucuses, Haley spoke to a gathering of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona before addressing a packed room of supporters in Ankeny. She was also set to meet with voters in Cedar Rapids on Thursday night.
In Ankeny, as she did multiple times in Wednesday night’s one-on-one debate, Haley directed supporters to a new website called DeSantisLies.com. Both Haley, a former South Carolina governor, and DeSantis have repeatedly accused the other of lying and misrepresenting their records.
“There’s a lot of lies and everything going on,” Haley told the crowd Thursday. “I finally just put it on a website, because I’m like, it’s just too big a thing. … Let’s focus on what we’re going to do to stop this drama, and to focus on what we need to do for the solutions.”
Some attendees said they supported Haley but weren’t thrilled with her latest debate performance, which they said ran counter to the above-the-fray style they said she’d maintained up to now.
“I think she did OK, but I think she relied too much on DeSantisLies.com,” said Sam Wells, of West Des Moines. “And she got caught into the name calling that she has stayed away from, that’s attracted her to a lot of people.”
Phyllis Johnson, also of West Des Moines, had the same take.
“I thought it was probably one of the poorest debates, and the reason I did is, I think her and DeSantis did too much back and forth slamming of each other,” Johnson said. “There was a little bit too much friction there. And I thought it really hurt both of them.”
Johnson, a retiree who said Monday night’s caucuses would be her first, said that she remained excited to caucus for the former South Carolina governor.
“I think our country is really headed in the very wrong direction,” Johnson said. “So we’ve got to do something. And I think Nikki would be a good answer to get us back together.”
Earlier in the day, DeSantis addressed the renewable fuels group just ahead of Haley, arguing that his on-the-ground campaign experience had driven home for him the need to safeguard the interests of the “hardworking, God-fearing, patriotic folks” whom he had met.
Meanwhile, both Haley and DeSantis were overshadowed by former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Dominating the political news cycle from 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) away, he appeared for the conclusion of his New York civil fraud trial and unleashed a six-minute diatribe in court before being cut off by the judge.
It was much the same as the day before, when Trump held a Fox News town hall at the same time as Haley and DeSantis were debating on CNN. The Nielsen company said 4.3 million viewers watched the Trump town hall, compared to just under 2.6 million for the head-to-head debate.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP
Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press