POLL: Ron DeSantis WINS debate battle with Nikki Haley

EXCLUSIVE – Ron DeSantis WINS the battle with Nikki Haley in Daily Mail poll of the battle in the third Republican presidential debate

  • Viewers said DeSantis beat Haley in a head-to-head poll after third GOP debate 
  • JL Partners surveyed 544 viewers immediately after the Miami debate ended
  • They said Florida governor was best placed to challenge Trump for nomination 

Ron DeSantis beat Nikki Haley out of sight in the third Republican presidential debate on Wednesday night, according to an exclusive DailyMail.com poll of viewers.

The pair have been scrapping it out for second place in the Republican nomination race behind Donald Trump. 

The Florida governor was judged to be the most presidential of the five candidates on stage and better placed than Haley, the former South Carolina governor, to take on the frontrunner.

The findings will give his campaign a boost after months of negative headlines and questions about whether his 2024 run was failing.

In a head-to-head match-up, 56 percent of respondents said DeSantis performed better than Haley, according to a poll of 544 viewers conducted by J.L. Partners. In contrast, 35 percent said Haley did better.

And when asked who was best placed to beat the former president, 53 percent said DeSantis and 29 percent plumped for Haley.

Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis clashed on China, abortion and fracking. While Haley got drawn into battles with other candidates, viewers said the Florida governor was more ‘presidential’

DeSantis beat Haley out of sight in the third Republican presidential debate on Wednesday night, according to an exclusive DailyMail.com poll of viewers.

A string of recent polls has put those two candidates at level pegging in the race for second place overall.

‘Republican donors and kingmakers around the country are trying to work out who to back to go up against Trump: Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley,’ said James Johnson, co-founder of J.L. partners.

‘Debate viewers at least have a clear answer: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. 

‘He is seen as having outperformed Haley by a margin of twenty points and beats her on every attribute including the most presidential, strongest on Israel and – crucially – who would be best to go up against Donald Trump.’

Five candidates took the stage in Miami on Wednesday. 

While Haley jousted with her rivals — calling biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy ‘scum’ in the most memorable moment of the night — DeSantis stuck to a strategy of trying to rise above the fray.  

‘DeSantis did what he needed to do,’ said donor Dan Eberhart. ‘He was calm, measured and presidential.

‘He showed he’s the only alternative to Trump.’ 

In the head-to-head with Haley, viewers also rated him more persuasive by 12 points, more presidential by 26 points, and stronger by 19 points.

Time is running out for DeSantis and the rest of the field, however. There are barely 60 days until Iowa holds its caucuses to select the state’s nominee. 

The contenders lined up in front of a White House backdrop at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, on Wednesday night

Things were more raucous up the road where Trump was at the Ted Hendricks Stadium 

The most recent polls suggest Trump has a lead of at least 27 points over DeSantis and Haley. 

Kellyanne Conway, former counsellor to President Trump, said DeSantis had performed well while Haley’s night was up and down.

Neither had upended the overall dynamic of the race, she added. 

‘I think tonight, we were watching five people who are waiting in the wings in case the front runner is no longer running. But that’s unlikely,’ she said.

It was a case now, she added, of hanging on until the Iowa caucuses to see what happened. 

Both DeSantis and Haley were careful on Wednesday not to punch too hard at Trump, who held a rally just up the road, lest they alienate his loyal band of supporters.

They were both asked at the start why they would make a better candidate than the former president. 

‘He said Republicans were gonna get tired of winning,’ DeSantis said before bringing up Tuesday’s disappointing election results. ‘Well, we saw last night – I’m sick of Republicans losing.’ 

Nikki Haley won support from the crowd with her answer on abortion, one of the issues that divided the five candidates on stage for the debate

DeSantis and his wife Casey wave as they depart the third Republican presidential primary debate in Miami

DeSantis was reelected governor of Florida in a landslide victory last year

A year ago he won big. DeSantis was reelected as Florida governor in a landslide and looked the candidate to beat for the 2024 nomination.

But his rising star has dimmed, overshadowed by Trump’s mammoth campaign.

DeSantis suggested Trump was not the big beast he once was, and accused him of failing to follow through on his ‘America First’ policies. 

The former president stayed away from Wednesday’s debate, but still cast a long shadow.

‘Everybody wants to talk about President Trump,’ said Haley, when asked about him. 

‘Well, I can talk about President Trump. I can tell you that I think he was the right president at the right time. I don’t think he’s the right president now.’

While DeSantis has set himself up as Trump without the baggage, a culture warrior who understands how government works, Haley has taken a different line.

She is running as a more traditional conservative, with a more interventionist foreign policy than the isolationists who have come to dominate the Republican Party. 

And at times she clashed with DeSantis. They disagreed on abortion, traded punches on China and she accused him of being ‘liberal’ on the environment for opposing fracking off the coast of Florida. 

Vivek Ramaswamy had a strong first debate, said pollster James Johnson, but has faded since then and his combative style has irritated some viewers

Haley (R) and her daughter Rena Haley (L) pose for photos following the third Republican presidential primary debate at the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center 

He hit back, saying: ‘We are absolutely going to frack, but I disagree with Nikki Haley. 

‘I don’t think it’s a good idea to drill in the Florida Everglades and I know most Floridians agree with me.’

Pollster Johnson added that Ramaswamy had faded after a strong first debate, while former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Tim Scott had failed to make an impact in Wednesday’s debate.

‘If Republicans want to put a nominee other than Trump forward, they have to unite around one candidate and fast,’ he said. ‘Debate viewers’ verdict this evening is that that candidate is Ron DeSantis.’

The poll was conducted as soon as the debate ended, from 10pm eastern time until 11:30 pm. It carries a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points. 

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