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Who won the fifth Republican debate, Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley?

There was no debate about who came out on top in Wednesday night’s head-to-head showdown between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Of the five veteran politics watchers surveyed by The Post, four said Haley was the clear winner.

Republican consultant Bill O’Riley said Haley, 51, had “a great night” at Drake University in Des Moines, continuing her run of “consistently crisp” debate performances.

“She was sharp, informed, and compelling throughout the night,” he added. “Her use of ‘DeSantisLies.com’ was a smart rhetorical tactic by her campaign. Few will actually go to the website, but viewers heard that message over and over again. She drove it home.”

As for DeSantis, 45, O’Riley said the Sunshine State leader “hit his marks, but he lacks the confidence that Haley exudes. This debate won’t hurt DeSantis, but it did nothing to put momentum on his side.”

The consultant also took issue with DeSantis’ use of the phrase “pale pastels” to describe Haley’s ideas, a callback to Ronald Reagan’s 1976 Republican National Convention speech.

“It was downright bizarre,” O’Riley said. “It may have sounded great in prep sessions, but it came across as weird on Wednesday night. It will be interesting to see if DeSantis stays in the race past Iowa.”

Another Republican consultant, Rob Ryan, said DeSantis “started off too hot” by saying in his opening statement that Haley was running “to pursue her donors’ issues.”

“His failure to display some level of humor or charm when going on the attack and his repeatedly calling Haley a liar will remind many women of their ex-husband,” Ryan predicted. “Haley came off strong and informed. She stood her ground and pushed back on DeSantis’ attacks. She was smart to focus more on her accomplishments.”

O’Brien Murray, who has consulted Republicans and conservative Democrats, told The Post that if the debate had been a boxing match, it would have been over early.

“Lucky the bell (the moderators) kept saving DeSantis,” he said, adding that Haley “is ready for a general election, she can win, and DeSantis showing up only confirmed she is ready for prime time, and he’s ready to go back to Florida.”

DeSantis “smiles when he can attack, otherwise his face looks like he is about to get hit by a bus,” Murray added. “A deer in headlights looks more confident.”

Watching from the Democratic camp, longtime party consultant Hank Sheinkopf said Haley was a “bulldozer.”

“She tried to paint DeSantis as a liar — and it worked. DeSantis looked lost,” he said.

With former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie withdrawing from the race earlier Wednesday, Sheinkopf said, “Haley comes out of the debate with momentum. She comes across as the anti-Trump candidate in the race while DeSantis was trying to have it both ways.”

The Democrat did give DeSantis props for his statements on education during the debate, when he bragged about expanding school choice in Florida and all but crippling Miami’s major teacher union.

However, Sheinkopf said, Haley bounced back even stronger with her statement on entitlements.

“Haley was more honest on Social Security,” he said of her comment that workers currently in their 20s would likely see their full retirement age raised. “She told the truth.”

The one caveat to our experts’ verdict was the absence of former President Donald Trump, who opted to do a town hall with Fox News rather than face his two nearest rivals and CNN moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash.

“Haley looked confident and sounded like a leader, but this is all the Twilight Zone,” said Democratic consultant Chris Coffey. “She can’t bring herself to go after Trump, who is leading in every poll. It’s like a battle to come in second after the game has been decided.

“They both kept calling each other liars,” Coffey added, “but it felt like they were lying to themselves about whether they have any chance of winning. Trump is the big winner tonight. The American people are the losers.”

Ryan agreed, comparing the CNN showdown to “a battle for who wins the bronze and silver medals in the Olympics.

“We’ll know the winner when we see who got more viewers, CNN or Fox.”

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Written by SaleemBaloch

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