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(NewsNation) — Four Republican candidates squared off in the fourth and final primary debate Wednesday night, and author and journalist Bill O’Reilly says there’s one clear winner: Ron DeSantis.
“The reason is that DeSantis tapped into the emotion that Republican voters are feeling when he went after the border and said ‘I would use violence against these cartel members,'” O’Reilly said on the post-debate analysis show. “The border is the most emotional issue for Republicans. The economy is second.”
DeSantis has made messaging about the southern U.S. border a central component of the campaign and has raised eyebrows for endorsing “deadly force” against migrants suspected of drug trafficking.
He’s also advocated for military force to target Mexican cartel operations, a position that’s grown popular within the Republican Party.
As for the other candidates’ performances, O’Reilly said former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley came off as an “establishment figure.”
“She’s distant. She’s not a culture warrior,” O’Reilly said. “She acquits herself well, very intelligent, could run the country, certainly could beat Joe Biden. No doubt in my mind that if it were Nikki Haley against Joe Biden, Haley would win probably in a landslide.”
But before she gets to a general election, Haley would need to secure her party’s nomination.
“For Republican voters, she doesn’t have the verve, the emotion, to right the wrongs, which is Trump’s trait. He’s the warrior, he’s going to clean it up,” O’Reilly said.
DeSantis and Haley were center stage, flanked on either side by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy. All of them trail former President Donald Trump in national polling, who maintains a nearly 50-point lead over DeSantis, his closest rival.
“Christie and Ramaswamy should not have been in the debate,” O’Reilly argued. “They have no chance, they’re not gonna surge, they took up air time.”
All of the candidates are looking to lock up votes in the pivotal early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.