‘Reasonable’ Republican for Biden Voters; Nets Puff Haley, Bash DeSantis on Caucus Day

January 15th, 2024 4:01 PM

The “big three” networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC used their flagship morning news shows on Monday ahead of the Iowa caucuses to cheer Nikki Haley as their preferred alternative to former President Trump, boasting of her “new momentum” and desire “to work with Democrats” has “resonate[d]” with Republicans, independents, and “even Democrats” who are considering voting for President Biden in November.

That would leave Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) as the odd person out, but considering the liberal media’s fear and virulent hatred of DeSantis — especially ABC given its parent company, Disney — it’s par for the course as they’ve long reveled in, among other things, the campaign staff reshuffles and falling poll numbers as the number of Trump indictments rose.



Speaking of ABC, their show Good Morning America (GMA) was enthused with the notion of DeSantis further fading and/or dropping out. Senior congressional correspondent Rachel Scott cheered Haley as having “gain[ed] new momentum, sharpening her attacks against Trump” about “chaos follow[ing] him” (which, in fact, is a line she’s used for weeks).

“For months, DeSantis was seen as Trump’s toughest rival. He staked his entire campaign on this state, visiting all 99 counties, holding 173 events. Haley, just 82. And Trump? 36,” Scott bragged before airing a clips of her asking DeSantis why he’s not “doing better in the state” and “what makes” him think the GOP’s “ready to move past Donald Trump.”

ABC political director Rick Klein did his part by acknowledging polling showing a lack of enthusiasm for Haley, but otherwise turning his guns on DeSantis as he boasted of Haley “reordering...the race” and “reordering of the expectations going forward”.

“Ron DeSantis has so much riding on this state. If he doesn’t finish in second, if he fades to third, that’s bad for him and good momentum for Nikki Haley heading into New Hampshire,” he continued.

In both hours of the show, GMA weekend co-host Eva Pilgrim hyped Haley’s “messag[ing]” as “resonat[ing] with people who voted for Trump twice, moderates, independents and even Democrats who have told us that they plan to change their party affiliation so they can caucus for Nikki Haley tonight.”

As for DeSantis, her weekend partner-in-crime Whit Johnson reported on the DeSantis camp, who’s “planted his campaign flag here in Iowa” like “the future of” his “campaign for president hinges on his success” on Monday because “his campaign knows that, if he does not finish first or second in Iowa, it raises major questions about how he moves forward in this race.”

CBS Mornings was all-in on pumping up Haley’s prospects. Along with touting three people attending a Haley event with one being “a former independent” who “registered Republican and plans to vote for Haley amid concerns about Trump.”

As senior White House and elections correspondent Ed O’Keefe pointed out, non-Republicans can still participate so long as they change their party registration at their caucus site.

Co-host Tony Dokoupil tried to ask O’Keefe about how Haley’s “enthusiasm” is “not as strong,” but O’Keefe went the other way by touting how he’s felt voters are breaking toward Haley and not DeSantis because of “cues from the momentum she’s seeing elsewhere”.

He also promoted “the perception” that she’s “that more reasonable, mainstream Republican who can somehow bring the country back together, and...that she’s totally different from all the other options if only because she’s a woman.”

As for DeSantis, Dokoupil went to Trump-obsessed author and chief elections and campaign correspondent Robert Costa to knock DeSantis (click “expand”):

DOKOUPIL: Yeah. Bob, I — I’ve heard Ron DeSantis say she may be more liberal than Gavin Newsom, so that’s the knock on her, at least within Republican circles. But Ron DeSantis can’t be happy a he describes himself as an underdog now when he had been the presumed Trump alternative. What went wrong for him? Does he have a path?

COSTA: It really matters these final hours. Can we get people to come out and caucus for him. Ron DeSantis has been to 99 counties in Iowa, and he has tried so hard for months to break into Trump’s coalition in this state. We’re talking about evangelical pastors —


COSTA: — conservative Republicans who say maybe Trump’s a little bit too much, we want a more traditional Republican, but we don’t want someone like Nikki Haley. But, for Ron DeSantis, if he doesn’t do well, if he comes in third or a far away second —


COSTA: — it’s going to be hard, not for inside his campaign — they believe in him — but do donors believe in him?


COSTA: Do voters down the line believe in him. It’s going to matter will he have the money —


COSTA: — to stay in the race after Iowa.

DeSantis himself led off the second hour and, along with a back-and-forth on immigration (in which Dokoupil compared his Italian great-grandfather to those now crossing illegally from Latin America), he told him that while “you like being the underdog. I know you say the polls — they — they may be wrong, but this can’t be where you really wanted to be.”

On NBC’s Today, Meet the Press moderator Kristen Welker huffed Monday night was “mission critical for Ron DeSantis” while, for Haley, she argued things trended toward possibly “incredible momentum heading into New Hampshire” thanks to “her strongest supporters” that inlcude Joe Biden supporters (click “expand”):

WELKER: This is mission critical for Ron DeSantis. He has got to come in second place, Savannah. If he doesn’t, it’s going to be very hard for him to justify staying in this race, even though his campaign says they’re in this for the long haul. He hasn’t identified another state that he can win. For Nikki Haley, it would give her incredible momentum heading into New Hampshire where she’s in striking distance of Donald Trump. She’s trailing him only by single digits. So, what does Haley need? What Steve’s talking about, that turnout. Her strongest supporters are those who are college educated, independents, those who would vote, by the way, for Joe Biden. Are they going to turn out? We’ll be watching all of that and, again, the weather is the X factor.

GUTHRIE: It’s so interesting because DeSantis and Haley here are getting thumped by Trump but all their ads in Iowa and you were just there over the weekend — 


GUTHRIE: — they’re just attacking each other, which is just — in a way — kind of crazy. They’re just going after each other for second place which by the way, there is no second place in a presidential race.

WELKER: This is what we’ve seen throughout the campaign, Savannah. You’re absolutely right. They’re attacking each other. We’ve seen this in the debates, which Donald Trump has skipped all of the debates, haven’t hurt him one bit. It’s only helped him, helped propel him to this huge lead. They’ve started to sharpen their attacks against Trump in recent days, but it hasn’t had an impact clearly.

Senior Washington correspondent Hallie Jackson had the same talking point about Haley having “support from more independent and Democrat leaning caucusgoers with nearly half of her backers saying they’d vote for President Biden over Donald Trump”, but mentioned the “warning sign...around Nikki Haley” in the lack of enthusiasm.

Political junkie guru Steve Kornacki concurred, adding her crashing popularity in Iowa (48 percent, down from “nearly 60 percent”) and “skyrocket[ing]” unfavorability from 30 to 46 percent.

To see the relevant transcripts from January 15, click here.