Ahead of tonight’s Republican primary debate tonight between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, the candidates’ fans fretted online over the narrow paths to victory the two have.
Both trail former President Donald Trump by around 50 percentage points according to the latest FiveThirtyEight national polling averages, but that margin narrows substantially in some of the upcoming primary states. Haley and DeSantis are running their closest races to Trump in Iowa and New Hampshire, with caucuses and a primary scheduled for Jan. 15 and Jan. 23 respectively.
DeSantis and Haley are both above 15% in Iowa, the first contest of the year, with Trump dominating the field at over 51%. But it’s in New Hampshire that a challenger is running the closest to Trump, with Haley clocking 32% to Trump’s 39%, according to a University of New Hampshire/CNN poll.
In the r/nikkihaley subreddit, supporters of Haley speculated on what it would take for anybody to unthrone Trump, who looks like he’s going to rout his challengers in the primaries.
“They are looking for a decisive victory in Iowa to shut down primary early,” commented u/phashcoder, who reckoned that Haley would have a hard time winning New Hampshire if Trump won an easy victory in the first state. “With Haley canceling events in Iowa, a DeSantis win in Iowa will make a Haley win in NH much more likely. Then we have a serious debate.”
“With Nikki’s recent momentum, her path to victory widens afterwards in New Hampshire and moving home to South Carolina. She continues crushing Biden in head to head match ups,” commented u/MrFrankTorres.
Others cited polling indicating that DeSantis voters might vote for Haley if he drops out—no matter who he ends up endorsing.
“It looks like DeSantis will endorse Trump after he loses in Iowa. This isn’t really significant though, because no GOP voter would actually vote for Trump if they’ve already realised what he is,” wrote u/MemeLord0009.
That same polling suggests that almost half of Chris Christie voters would vote for Haley, who dropped out of the race this afternoon. But with Christie barely hitting 3.5% in the Iowa contest, it’s unlikely that will make much of a difference there, though he’s polling over 10% in New Hampshire, where Haley has a fighting chance.
Still, DeSantis supporters were rosy on the r/DeSantis subreddit about the prospects for the debate to turn everything around for their candidate.
“I think this can be a turning point for the DeSantis campaign if he absolutely obliterates Haley on the national stage,” wrote u/WasteSpecific5691. “I believe he needs to go full throttle exposing Nikki’s lies and go after her HARD. Completely embarrass her in front of a national audience and ride the momentum to Iowa.”
Other posters were gloomier about the prospect of anybody being able to beat Trump, even in a head-to-head contest.
“The only path is for a Black Swan event to remove Trump,” predicted u/Thebig_Ohbee in the Nikki Haley subreddit. “The best Haley can do is hang on as tightly as possible for as long as possible. I’m thinking things like: surprise court decisions, heart attacks, global thermonuclear war, crazy weather or seismic event.”