The results are in: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was the clear victor in his head-to-head debate this week against former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
A recent poll conducted by J.L. Partners for the Daily Mail reported that 55% of people who watched the debate — which was held on Wednesday night in Des Moines, Iowa — believed that DeSantis won. Only 31% of viewers believed Haley won, while another 14% said they weren’t sure who the victor was.
Winners and losers of the final GOP debate before Iowa https://t.co/b686ka5WPO
— FOX 5 San Diego (@fox5sandiego) January 11, 2024
According to the co-founder of J.L. Partners, James Johnson, how the GOP primary unfolds over the next few months will be determined in large part by whether the number of candidates gets reduced to only two people.
In that scenario, the clear frontrunner in the race, former President Donald Trump, would have to respond to attacks from just one person. Plus, non-Trump voters wouldn’t be split among multiple other GOP candidates.
This week, viewers showed who they believe the person should be to take on Trump.
“Republicans who watched the debate last night gave a clear message: that person should be Ron DeSantis,” Johnson said on Thursday. “He was seen as the winner over Nikki Haley as well as the best to go up against Trump.”
Ever since Trump announced his candidacy not long after the 2022 midterm elections, DeSantis was seen as the most likely candidate who could challenge him for the GOP nomination.
Even though DeSantis didn’t officially throw his hat into the ring until last May, he was laying the groundwork for his run for months before.
And while other GOP candidates like Haley have made some noise leading up to the start of the primaries, DeSantis seems to have stuck it out and gotten the best of them all.
Many people described Wednesday night’s debate as intense, as both candidates went back and forth attacking each other. Haley even repeatedly urged people to visit a website her campaign set up laying out “fact checks” about some of the things DeSantis said.
Even though he was the clear winner of this final GOP debate, DeSantis still finds himself well behind Trump in most national polls. That is going to make it a tough climb indeed for him to overtake the former president from his perch atop the Republican Party.