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DeSantis slams rivals’ ‘basement campaigns’ as New Hampshire GOP debate axed

Republican presidential contender Ron DeSantis has said he is the only candidate “who’s not running a basement campaign” after rival Nikki Haley dropped out of ABC News’ planned New Hampshire debate, forcing the network to cancel the event.

Mr DeSantis took part in a CNN town hall in the Granite State on Tuesday evening, where he hit out at his Republican rivals in the 2024 White House race.

“I’m the only candidate that actually agreed to come to New Hampshire to debate,” he said.

“I’m the only one who’s not running a basement campaign at this point.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Ms Haley posted on X that she would not be taking part in any further GOP debates unless frontrunner Donald Trump finally agreed to join her and Mr DeSantis on stage.

“We’ve had five great debates in this campaign. Unfortunately, Donald Trump has ducked all of them,” she wrote.

“He has nowhere left to hide. The next debate I do will either be with Donald Trump or with Joe Biden. I look forward to it.”

The party’s last debate on CNN a week ago was a simple head-to-head between Ms Haley and Mr DeSantis as Mr Trump was the only other candidate who qualified – and he once again declined to take part, opting for a much friendlier hearing on Fox News instead.

Chris Christie, Vivek Ramaswamy and Asa Hutchinson all failed to make the grade and all three have since suspended their campaigns for the presidency.

Ms Haley’s decision left ABC News and partner WMUR with little choice but to cancel their debate planned for Thursday evening, ahead of next week’s New Hampshire primary – rather than leave Mr DeSantis alone on the stage with only the moderators and studio audience to talk to.

“Our intent was to host a debate coming out of the Iowa caucuses, but we always knew that would be contingent on the candidates and the outcome of the race,” the network said in a statement.

“As a result, while our robust election coverage will continue, ABC News and WMUR-TV will not be moving forward with Thursday’s Republican presidential primary debate in New Hampshire.”

All eyes are now on the Granite State after Mr Trump chalked up a huge victory in Iowa on Monday evening, kicking off the campaign year by securing a dominant 51 per cent of the vote.

Ron DeSantis came in second place in the Republican Iowa caucuses (AFP via Getty Images)
Ron DeSantis came in second place in the Republican Iowa caucuses (AFP via Getty Images)

Mr DeSantis came second with 21 per cent, Ms Haley came a disappointing third with 19 per cent and Mr Ramawamy scored eight per cent.

Elsewhere during his appearance on CNN last night, Mr DeSantis warned that his party would lose November’s election to President Joe Biden if Mr Trump is chosen as its nominee.

“If Donald Trump is the nominee, the election will revolve around all these legal issues,” he said.

“We’re going to lose if that’s the decision voters are making based on that. We don’t want it to be a referendum on those issues.

“We want it to be a referendum on the country going in the wrong direction and a candidate like me being a president who could reverse the decline.”

Mr DeSantis also attacked Ms Haley, saying she would not be able to unite a divided GOP.

“To win a Republican primary… you gotta be able to win core Republicans, you gotta be able to win conservatives, and she can’t do that,” he said.