DeSantis-Haley feud escalates with dueling attack ads

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In the escalating feud between Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, the super PAC supporting the Florida governor is going up with a new ad portraying Haley as flip-flopping over aid to Palestinians in Gaza.

The social media ad, shared with POLITICO in advance of its release on Friday, comes hours after a pro-Haley PAC put out a spot mocking the Florida governor.

The ad wars punctuate a week of intensifying conflict between the GOP presidential candidates, who are drawing closer in early-state polls. For months, DeSantis held steady in second place, trailing Donald Trump but comfortably ahead of his other rivals. But following a strong debate performance in August, Haley has inched up in the polls; she now leads DeSantis in New Hampshire and South Carolina, while he is ahead of her in Iowa.

The 30-second video from Never Back Down, the DeSantis-aligned PAC, juxtaposes Haley’s recent comments opposing financial aid to Gaza residents with her remarks to the U.S. Senate during her confirmation hearing to become United Nations ambassador in 2017.

“I think that we need to do whatever we can to protect the region,” Haley responded that year when Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) asked whether providing food, jobs and homes to people living in the West Bank and Gaza was in the interests of the United States. (Booker’s question was not included in its entirety in the ad; during the hearing he asked whether giving support to Palestinians furthers American interests “by decreasing the pool of potential recruits or radicalized individuals to join terrorist organizations like Hamas.”)

The ad quotes Haley saying, “Anytime that we can help mankind, regardless of where they are and what country they’re in.”

It then cuts to a recent FOX interview, in which she said, “That is not the role of U.S. to do that. I’ve always said that” regarding aid to Palestinians — an effort to portray Haley as weak on the issue following intensifying violence in the Middle East.

The ad will run on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, an official from the PAC said.

“Nikki Haley has a history of weakly flip-flopping on critical issues and so far, she has never had to defend her actions. She’s provided an opportunity with her own missteps to fully expose her record versus her rhetoric. She will not be able to survive that,” Never Back Down Chief Operating Officer Kristin Davison said in a prepared statement.

Haley spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas replied, “Desperate campaigns do desperate things. Nikki was taking on Hamas and standing up for Israel at the UN, while DeSantis was a backbench Congressman voting to increase the debt and trying to ban fracking. Nikki is surging and DeSantis is flailing.”

Perez-Cubas noted Haley successfully pushed to cut funding to Palestinian refugees through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency during her tenure as ambassador.

The ad hitting Haley came after the pro-Haley SFA Fund Inc. released a video Friday morning challenging DeSantis’ ongoing criticisms of the former South Carolina governor.

“Poor Ron DeSantis; he’s losing, he’s lying,” the narrator says during the 30-second ad. “So now he’s throwing mud at Nikki Haley.” It then shows clips of Haley asserting the U.S. should not accept Gazan refugees — even cutting to the same FOX interview the Never Back Down spot highlights.

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