DeSantis-Nikki Haley feud heats up, a possible new Democratic challenger for Biden and other trail takeaways

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Nikki Haley swiped at fellow presidential hopeful Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his mischaracterization of her stance toward admitting refugees from Gaza.

A potential Democratic challenger to President Joe Biden is laying the groundwork for a possible announcement next week — but he has not yet made his final decision.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tim Scott called on Biden to denounce “the Squad” for their remarks following Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel.

Here are tidbits from the campaign trail from Saturday.

Nikki Haley on Ron DeSantis: ‘That’s what happens when a campaign starts to spiral out’

Haley dinged DeSantis on Saturday for his description of her remarks about the situation in Gaza.

“You know first thing I’ll say is, God bless Ron DeSantis because he continues to try and bring up this refugee situation. He has said that I want to take Gazan refugees. I have never said that. And he’s got an ad on TV, and I will tell you, from CNN to Newsmax, they have all said that his ad is a lie,” she said at a town hall Saturday at Central College in Pella, Iowa.

The ad, released Friday by DeSantis’ Never Back Down PAC, features Haley in 2017 defending sending assistance to people in the West Bank and Gaza alongside a 2023 clip of her saying of the prospect of the United States accepting Gazan refugees, “That is not the role of U.S. to do that. I’ve always said that, and I continue to say that.”

Asked about his mischaracterization of Haley’s comments, DeSantis on Saturday again accused her of wanting to vet refugees from the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that the former ambassador did not call for the U.S. to accept Gazan refugees.

“She said that America has always been able to separate terrorists from people that are really seeking freedom, that they want to see Hamas overthrown and live in freedom, and she’s like, that’s what we’ve got to do. You’ve got to distinguish. So why would you be talking about vetting people if you didn’t want them to come in? I mean, we would have no role in vetting people if that weren’t the case. So I think she stepped in it. I think that they’ve gotten blowback from that, and I think they’re trying to kind of cover their tracks and act like we’re doing anything other than just quoting her words,” he said Saturday in Dubuque, Iowa.

ABC’s Hannah Demissie pressed DeSantis in Anderson, South Carolina, about why he mischaracterized Haley’s comments.

“She criticized what I had said, and she said the U.S. has always been able to separate terrorists from other people and that’s what we have to do in this instance. So I don’t know why you would say that. Why would you be vetting people if you’re not going to be bringing them in? So she’s talking separating and vetting and that’s what they have to do,” DeSantis said.

“But she didn’t explicitly say bring in Gaza refugees,” Demissie said.

“But I think that she’s talked about vetting, so people then looked, she got blowback, and then she changed course. … We were very clear on it, and I think she’s had — expressed a lot of support for [the United Nations Relief and Works Agency] and stuff in the past, and I think people have put that out just to show that that’s the reality,” DeSantis responded.

Minnesota congresswoman lays groundwork for a potential primary challenge to Biden

All preparations are being laid in place for a presidential announcement for Rep. Dean Phillips at the State House on Friday, Oct. 27, according to someone in New Hampshire familiar with Phillips’ plans — but Phillips has not committed to running.

Phillips, in a statement to ABC News, also confirmed his Thursday conversation with New Hampshire Democratic leadership as he “contemplates” entering the primary.

“I called [New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley] yesterday to introduce myself as I contemplate entering the Democratic primary. It was a very friendly conversation,” Phillips said.

The deadline to file to for the New Hampshire primary is the same day, on Oct. 27.

“I reminded him the deadline is the 27th for New Hampshire, and once he files he can’t get his name off the ballot if he changes his mind. I told him of course we would be gracious hosts, as is our tradition, but both polling and grassroots interactions in NH reveal a high level of support for President Biden among the likely voters,” said Buckley.

“It would be a tough challenge for Phillips or anyone. But sure, c’mon on up!” he added.

ABC News has reached out to the Concord Department of Administrative Services to obtain the permits. ABC News has also reached out to Phillips’ campaign manager.

Marianne Williamson has already launched a long shot primary bid against Biden. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. also entered the race as a Democrat before switching to an independent campaign.

Tim Scott hits ‘the Squad’ for remarks about Israel

Sen. Tim Scott, who called for members of the progressive House members called “the Squad” to be expelled in an op-ed published Thursday, on Saturday continued to blast the lawmakers’ rhetoric against Israel.

“I’ll just be blunt: Joe Biden has no ability to speak the truth on this issue, because he’s got ‘the Squad’ in his party, and he has to be at their beck and call,” Scott said Saturday at a diner called City Limits in Iowa.

“And so what we’re seeing happen today is a president who simply doesn’t have the ability to tell the American people the truth by starting in his own party and telling, whether it’s Congresswoman [Rashida] Tlaib or [Ilhan] Omar or the rest of ‘the Squad,’ ‘Your propaganda machine that is an extension of Hamas is unwelcome in the party.’ And I would love to see the Democrats in Congress hold them accountable. I have no ability to hold my breath for more than a minute, so I’m not going to hold my breath on that one,” he added.

When asked whether asked Biden’s funding proposal for Ukraine and Israel amounts to him walking and chewing gum at the same time — given that Scott frequently charges Biden with being incapable of such multitasking — the South Carolina Republican again referenced Biden’s lack of specific condemnation for progressives.

“Well, I’d say it this way. Bottom line is a simple one from my perspective. Walking and chewing gum is not only making the presidential address, it’s also calling out the squad who continues to be a part of a propaganda machine that is actually jeopardizing lives,” he said.

Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., have been among Israel’s strongest critics. Tlaib refused to apologize Wednesday for saying a day earlier that Israel is to blame for the hospital explosion that day in Gaza, despite evidence from the U.S. defense department that the blast was likely caused by an errant projectile from Palestinian Islamic Jihad.


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