(MENAFN- IANS) Washington, Dec 7 (IANS) Nikki Haley, the closest rival to former President Donald Trump, and Indian American entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy are expected to spar with each other in the fourth GOP-sponsored presidential debate at the University of Alabama on Tuesday night as former ex-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is expected to hold his own on his anti-Trump stance.
Yet former President Donald Trump is most likely to loom large over the debate with his fundraising event in Florida, media reports said.
Alabama's first-ever Republican presidential debate comes at a time when news headlines about the party's frontrunner warn the people of dire consequences of his authoritarianism, dictatorship, and vindictiveness against political enemies, media reports pointed out.
It's not clear whether the debaters at the Alabama University will rake up concerns about the ex-president during the fourth GOP presidential debate.
Political experts believe the moderators and, especially, the candidates will avoid biting criticism about the ex-president who enjoys a comfortable poll led over them.
Trump is reportedly ahead of the debaters by 43 per cent while Haley is trailing closely at over 20 per cent followed by Ron DeSantis at 16 per cent.
"There's no limit on the number of topics the candidates 'should' discuss, but it seems unlikely that the conversation will approach those issues in the debate,” said Soren Jordan, an associate professor of political sciences at Auburn University at Michigan.
“I'm not sure any of the candidates will be anxious to criticize Trump. This is still the state where his approval rating is the highest of all the states. The real question is how you differentiate yourself as a candidate without alienating Trump voters. I'm not sure any particular candidate has a good read on that.” Trump is skipping the 4th debate also as the first three at Penn, Francisco and Milwaukee.
Trump, himself, also has ties with NewsNation executives, notably Sean Compton, the Nexstar executive overseeing the cable TV network who he called a“winner at everything he does”.
Some political observers believe the GOP debate, sans Trump, won't be much of a showing. Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are trailing Trump badly in the polls and seem to be vying against each other as the alternative candidate to the former President, experts note.
Two other GOP hopefuls – entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – will be debate participants but are also trailing far behind in polling.
Trump's approval rating in Alabama was among the highest in the country before he left office in early 2021. The deep red state has since invited Trump back on several occasions, most recently during a state Republican Party meeting in early August in Montgomery, media reports said.
But Trump's debate snub shouldn't be a surprise to Alabamians, especially Republicans. It's a tried and true political strategy that has found a favourable root in Alabama.
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