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Sparks

Nikki Haley Called Ron DeSantis the ‘E’ Word

“We are absolutely going to frack!” DeSantis protested.

Haley and DeSantis.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Tonight, at approximately seven feet above sea level, the five leading Republican presidential candidates not named Trump assembled in a performing arts center in Miami to once again go through the motions of pretending this is a normal election cycle.

If you happened to be doing something else with your finite mortal hours on Wednesday evening, though, you didn’t miss much. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy made every effort to maintain his status as the group’s enfant terrible with obnoxious barbs that didn’t even spare the moderators; Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina managed to use a Bible verse to talk about the economy; and former Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey reminded the American people that, yes, he is still here.

The debate finally gained a bit of a pulse, however, during a brief rematch between Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley over DeSantis’ fracking record. During the previous debate in September (yes, Wednesday’s was the third Republican debate so far), Haley had blasted DeSantis for being “against fracking” and “against drilling.” DeSantis protested — although a fact check showed Haley kind of had a point, seeing as the governor signed an executive order telling his state officials to “take necessary actions to adamantly oppose” fracking and offshore drilling on his second day in office.

On Wednesday, Haley started in again. “It cracks me up that Ron continues to do this: He has opposed fracking, he’s opposed drilling,” she said. Then she went for the jugular: “He was praised by the Sierra Club,” she slammed. “You’re trying to make up for it and act like you weren’t a liberal when it comes to the environment — but you are, you always have been. Just own it if that’s the case, but don’t keep saying you’re something that you’re not.”

DeSantis protested the use of the E-word (not to mention the L-word) was unfair. “We are absolutely going to frack,” he insisted, though you could see a flicker of his old green moderateness when he added, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to drill in the Florida Everglades and I know most Floridians agree with me.” The end of his sentence was drowned out, however, by Haley saying loudly into her mic, “YOU BANNED FRACKING.”

As was the case the last time around, Haley and DeSantis’ back-and-forth just goes to show “the [Republican] Party’s utter confusion about how to handle environmental issues,” as Heatmap’s Robinson Meyer has written. On the one hand, the conversation around environmental protections and the green transition has advanced to the point that even the GOP debates can’t ignore climate change (or, at least not entirely); Trump himself will allow that hybrid cars are “pretty good” during his rants about electric vehicles. On the other hand, smearing DeSantis as a “liberal environmentalist” who allegedly hates fracking is still perceived to be damaging enough in a Republican primary that Haley used her limited minutes in front of the approximately 17 American viewers who tuned in on Wednesday night to try, once more, to get it to stick.

Only time will tell if such a barb can harm DeSantis (who, for his part, continually insists he welcomes barbs, as well as arrows, hits, and presumably other assorted forms of torment). Then again, the whole thing might be moot. In the next century, the waves of Biscayne Bay could very well be lapping at the stage where, once upon a time, five Republican presidential hopefuls had futilely name-called, hand-wrung, and heel-shamed. Time might tell — but who has time?

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Jeva Lange profile image

Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City.

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