US election campaign The woman in focus: noise and a main character in a TV debate

Television debates in the US election campaign are one thing above all: a show. But the rounds of Republican presidential candidates are increasingly drifting into insults. A woman stands in the middle smiling.

In the race of Republican US presidential candidates, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is increasingly moving into the spotlight alongside former President Donald Trump. At the fourth TV debate between the Republican presidential candidates in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the 51-year-old was clearly the center of attention given her recent poll successes and was the target of most of the verbal attacks. Trump, who appears to be unassailably ahead of his internal party rivals in polls, once again stayed away from the group – and played far less of a role there than the only woman in the race.

This time there were only four candidates on the television stage. In addition to Haley, there were Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Several other candidates have already dropped out of the race due to their own poor prospects, such as former Vice President Mike Pence. Trump is currently the undisputed leader of the Republican field and is around 45 percentage points ahead of DeSantis and Haley. Ramaswamy and Christie are in single digits.

Haley’s Run

DeSantis, who was considered Trump’s most promising competitor at the start of the race, has seen a steep decline in polls in recent months. Haley, on the other hand, continued to make gains and recently caught up with DeSantis. Just a few days ago she received an additional boost in the election campaign: The influential organization Americans for Prosperity, founded by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, expressed its support for the former governor of South Carolina. This means that the 51-year-old will receive significant organizational and financial help, which could give her further tailwind.

The attack of competitors

And the focus in TV debates is usually on the person for whom things are going best politically. DeSantis attacked Haley again and again. Among other things, he accused her of being under the thumb of questionable rich donors. “Nikki will give in to the big donors when push comes to shove,” he raged. The 45-year-old also attacked Haley for past political positions and accused her, among other things, of courting Chinese investors in her state as governor.

Once again, Ramaswamy in particular stood out with particularly harsh attacks against Haley. He repeatedly accused his party colleague of being corrupt and claimed that she had amassed a fortune by pandering to corporations and millionaires. At one point the 38-year-old held up a piece of paper somewhat awkwardly. The formula: “Nikki = corrupt” was scrawled on it in capital letters. He insulted Haley as more “fascist” than the “regime” of incumbent President Joe Biden and teased that she wanted to send troops to Ukrainian provinces whose names she didn’t even know.

Her reaction

The 51-year-old conspicuously ignored Ramaswamy’s attacks this time after she temporarily lost her composure in the face of his accusations during the most recent TV debate. During the note campaign, she didn’t look at her competitor and, when asked whether she wanted to respond to the allegations, replied coolly: “No, it’s not worth my time to respond to him.”

Haley countered DeSantis’ attacks. She called him a liar and hypocrite several times. “Ron keeps lying because he’s losing.” And in response to the allegations about her donors, she replied: “He’s angry because Wall Street donors used to support him and are now supporting me.”

Above all, Haley clearly enjoyed being the center of attention: “I’m happy about all the attention, guys – thank you very much for that.” As Christie moved to defend Haley against Ramaswamy, she smiled broadly. Christie reprimanded Ramaswamy and called on him to just “shut up” and stop insulting Haley. “This is a smart, capable woman who you shouldn’t insult,” said the 61-year-old, calling Ramaswamy a “smart-ass” and the “most obnoxious braggart in America.”

A little Trump

Christie once again criticized Trump, calling him a “dictator” and a “tyrant,” an “angry, bitter man” who was not fit to be president. For this he received several boos from the audience. Christie accused his fellow campaigners on stage of being too afraid to stand up to Trump. Christie also repeatedly warned his party colleagues, especially DeSantis, for avoiding the moderators’ questions and not giving clear answers.

In terms of content, all four repeated previous messages of political toughness, for example towards China or Iran. Ramaswamy, who is not given any real chances in the race and who sometimes tries to rap during election campaign appearances, also once again came out with all sorts of radical conspiracy theories.

Trump, who will be faced with several legal proceedings next year in addition to the election campaign, decided not to hold a rival event to the TV debate this time. He had not appeared at the previous television rounds with his party colleagues and had argued that he did not need to take part because of his poll numbers.

Anyone who wants to become the Republican candidate must win primaries in the individual states. The first vote of its kind in the state of Iowa is January 15th. The actual presidential election is finally at the beginning of November 2024.