Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis pitted against each for other for 2nd place in Iowa caucus, eye on 2028

Washington, Jan 4 (IANS): Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley are pitted against each other to secure the 2nd berth after the Iowa caucus on January 15 when former President Donald Trump is likely to fend off their competition, but it would signal the potential of both candidates to be catapulted into the 1st position in 2028.

Although DeSantis and Haley have little chance to defeat Trump in Iowa, both see a strong second-place finish iks key to becoming the last person standing between Trump and the 2024 nomination. Pre-empting expectations in Iowa would signal potential for the 2028 campaign, when the GOP field could be wide open, media reports said .

Recent polls of Iowa Republican caucus-goers put Haley and DeSantis in the teens, with the Florida Governor slightly leading and with both well behind Trump. But late shifts in momentum are common in Iowa, so either candidate could finish well ahead of the other on caucus night, CNN reported.

With the Iowa caucuses less than a fortnight away, the big question is not who will win on January 15, but who will be placed second. Groups backing the contenders for the runner-up spot - DeSantis and Haley - have spent millions of dollars on ads targeting the rival for second, while making little effort to bring down the front-runner, says Laura Belin, the publisher and primary author of website "Bleeding Heartland", where she has been covering Iowa politics since 2007, and the co-host of “Capitol Week” on KHOI Radio in Ames, Iowa.

Belin said: "One thing I’ve learned observing many presidential candidates in Iowa: Voters are far less predictable than journalists. It’s likely Haley and DeSantis have rehearsed a sound bite (or a pivot) for any question a reporter may ask at a campaign event or televised forum. But you never know what a politically engaged audience member will bring up.

"We saw that play out last week in New Hampshire. Unfortunately for Haley, she fumbled the question about the Civil War and the slavery aspect on an otherwise slow news day, meaning far more people saw the video, and more journalists covered the candidate’s awkward response and attempted clean-up."

CNN’ has arranged back-to-back town hall meetings with Haley and DeSantis in Des Moines on Thursday and that could be important -- not only for the undecided caucus-goers, who tune in live, but because many more voters will hear newsworthy sound bites later, media reports said .

Gaffes have the awkward tendency to go viral more often than clips of a candidate really nailing an answer to a difficult question. Certainly, DeSantis and Haley will want to avoid missteps. They should most importantly try to create mic-drop moments that their campaigns can promote on social media, or in a closing Iowa digital or television ad, she observed.

This cycle’s GOP debates have had a bit of a “kids’ table” feel. But with just Haley and DeSantis on stage (Trump will instead participate in a Fox News town hall), the CNN-hosted debate in Des Moines on January 10 could generate more viewership interest.

It will probably be the last chance for Haley and DeSantis to reach a nationwide television audience before the caucuses, and they won’t have to fight for speaking time -- or deal with Vivek Ramaswamy’s attention-seeking behaviour, Belin said.



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Title: Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis pitted against each for other for 2nd place in Iowa caucus, eye on 2028

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