New Hampshire Debates Canceled After Nikki Haley’s Refusal

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

Two network debates scheduled ahead of next week’s New Hampshire primary have been canceled, both CNN and ABC have announced. As a result, New Hampshire voters won’t be getting any new closing arguments from campaigns before they vote.

The decision comes after former South Carolina governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced she would not be participating in any debates that Donald Trump was not attending. 

“We’ve had five great debates in this campaign. Unfortunately, Donald Trump has ducked all of them,” Haley said in a statement. “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 move received sharp criticism from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

“Nikki Haley is afraid to debate because she doesn’t want to answer the tough questions such as how she got rich off Boeing after giving them millions in taxpayer handouts as governor of South Carolina,” DeSantis said in a statement posted to Twitter/X on Tuesday morning. “The reality is that she is not running for the nomination, she’s running to be Trump’s VP.”

“I won’t snub New Hampshire voters like both Nikki Haley and Donald Trump, and plan to honor my commitments,” he added. “I look forward to debating two empty podiums in the Granite State this week.”

But without more than one candidate to be on the debate state, CNN and ABC had no choice but to cancel.

“CNN is no longer moving forward with a New Hampshire Republican Presidential Primary Debate, as only one qualifying candidate accepted our invitation to take the stage,” a spokesperson for CNN said on Wednesday morning, according to The Messenger. “We will continue to pursue other opportunities as the campaign season progresses through 2024, including candidate Town Halls.”

ABC made a similar announcement previously.

“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,” an ABC News statement read. “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.”

The decision by Haley reflects a subtle shift in campaign strategy. Previously, she focused her attention on DeSantis in an effort to undermine his campaign in Iowa. The calculation from her campaign seems to be that his campaign is done her and that she now needs to go after Trump to solidify the non-Trump portion of the base.

But it’s still a longshot campaign for the GOP nomination – Trump has a substantial backing in the polls. Even if DeSantis were to bow out, previous polling has indicated that his voters are more likely to back Trump than Haley, increasing the former president’s already substantial margins.

DeSantis, meanwhile, also needs to consolidate the non-Trump portion of the base, but his campaign appears to believe that it has to happen by taking down Haley – the same polling that shows his voters going to Trump if he bows out shows Haley’s voters going to him if she bows out. But the same problems regarding Trump’s massive lead still exist for both candidates.

It’s very likely Trump’s race to lose, and while it’s not impossible, the odds of overtaking him seem low.

While there are no debates scheduled between now and primary day in New Hampshire, DeSantis did take part in a CNN Townhall on Tuesday night, and Haley is scheduled for one on Thursday night.


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