SummaryFor 2024 US election stories, results and data:
MIAMI, Nov 8 (Reuters) – Donald Trump’s leading rivals for the Republican presidential nomination sought to make the case for being their party’s standard-bearer at the outset of Wednesday’s Republican debate, with time running out to disrupt the former president’s march toward another White House bid.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis criticized Trump for skipping their debate, which took place in their shared home state of Florida, and suggested that the party’s poor showing in Tuesday’s off-year elections should be laid at Trump’s feet.
“He said Republicans were gonna get tired of winning,” DeSantis said. “Well, we saw last night – I’m sick of Republicans losing!”
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley offered a more muted critique.
“Everybody wants to talk about President Trump. I can tell you that I think he was the right president at the right time,” she said. “I don’t think he’s the right president now.”
With the first Republican state nominating contest in Iowa little more than two months away, Trump’s rivals may not have many more chances to derail the commanding lead he holds among Republican voters in public opinion polling, despite his multiple criminal indictments.
For the third time, the frontrunner did not show up for the debate, instead holding a rival event close by.
Haley, 51, in third place nationally, has grown stronger as she seeks to dislodge DeSantis, 45, from his distant second place.
Trump, 77, has done his best to deny Haley and DeSantis a direct target, instead focusing on what he expects to be a rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden, 80.
In the two previous televised debates, Haley and DeSantis had been careful not to come down on Trump too hard for fear of alienating his supporters, whose backing they will need if they are to ultimately capture the Republican nomination in July.
The election is almost exactly a year away – Nov. 5, 2024.
RUNNING OUT OF TIME
Trump held a campaign rally a few miles away in the heavily Hispanic city of Hialeah. Hispanics are a voting group both parties will be courting heavily.
Haley, a former South Carolina governor, was coming off two strong debate performances and has been the only Republican besides Trump to show recent momentum in early nominating states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
With the month-old Israeli-Hamas conflict making headlines, the debate afforded an opportunity for Haley to flash her foreign policy credentials.
While DeSantis and Haley hope to capitalize on strong debate performances, the debate could well fail to offer a turning point in what has been a race dominated by Trump from the start.
The three other debate participants – former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and U.S. Senator Tim Scott – sought to assert their relevance and find a path forward.
Ramaswamy was expected to use the debate stage to promote his non-interventionist foreign policy as he seeks to position himself as the least likely candidate to wade into a foreign war.
Reporting by James Oliphant in Miami and Tim Reid in Los Angeles; additional reporting by Gram Slattery; editing by Ross Colvin, Alistair Bell and Howard Goller
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