Where to watch the Republican debate tonight, with Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis

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Wednesday’s television programming offers a real lesser-of-two-evils choice.

Pick your poison. Which do you prefer, strep throat or stomach flu?

Or, more specifically, would you rather watch the pared-down fifth Republican debate, this one on CNN, or the counter-programming: a Donald Trump town hall on Fox News?

See what I mean? There are not a lot of attractive options here.

Not watching either is a valid option. But we’re gluttons for punishment around here. I’m predicting a back-and-forth, channel-switching kind of situation at my house.

In theory, the CNN option should be interesting. The network is hosting two debates in January, a later one in New Hampshire.

What time is the Republican debate?

But the first is at 7 p.m. Arizona time on Wednesday, Jan. 10, at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa — less than a week before the Iowa caucuses. Spoiler alert: Trump is going to win. The caucuses, not the debate. Once again, he isn’t participating in the latter.

Instead, he will appear at the same time on Fox News for a town hall, a real thumb in the eye to CNN and a signal that the already-conservative network is listing farther right, as they are essentially carrying Trump’s water.

There was that brief period when Rupert Murdoch, who stepped down as chairman of Fox Corporation and News Corp., seemed to sour on Trump. (Paying $787.5 million to settle a defamation suit brought by Dominion Voting Systems after your on-air personalities repeatedly made false claims about the 2020 election will do that to a person.) But these folks know where the money is made, and with Republicans — their core audience — it’s made by training a camera on Trump and letting him spout whatever lies and threats and nonsense pop into his head at that particular moment.

Fox News hosting a Trump Town Hall

Wait, sorry. This thing has moderators: Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, part of the “serious” news operation at Fox, which is to say, not the lunatic lineup of opinion makers in prime time. (Check out some of Baier’s texts that were revealed during the Dominion suit. Turns out he might not have been as comfortable with the network calling Arizona for Joe Biden as he seemed on-air.)

You may remember them from the first GOP debate, in August, playing the then-popular song “Rich Men North of Richmond” and asking the candidates why it had struck such a nerve. In fairness, Baier pushed Trump on some issues in a June interview, enough so that Trump complained about it afterward. If you can imagine such a reaction.

Trump is sounding more and more like a threat to democracy in his rally ravings, with talk of retribution against journalists, weaponizing the U.S. Department of Justice against his perceived political enemies, using the military against protestors, that sort of thing. It would be irresponsible of Baier and MacCallum not to press Trump on these troubling boasts and promises. Anything less and they’re just serving as a public-relations arm of Trump’s campaign.

CNN's Jake Tapper and Dana Bash are pros, but it doesn't matter

Meanwhile, things would be a little more interesting over on CNN — if it mattered. Only Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley and Trump qualified, and Trump ain’t showing.

Vivek Ramaswamy boldly proclaimed that the debate would be “the most boring in modern history.” That’s like the Arizona Cardinals saying the NFL Playoffs would be boring. The sour-grapes position is not a good look, no matter who you are.

It is a shame Trump won’t be there, because Jake Tapper and Dana Bash are moderating the CNN debate. They’re pros, both of them. (Bash was particularly strong interviewing Katie Hobbs and Kari Lake during the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial campaign.) I can’t wait to see them bore in on Haley over her views on what prompted the Civil War. (It’s an easy word to remember: slavery. She should read up on it.) Or asking DeSantis why he’s still in the race.

But does it even matter? Barring something incomprehensible happening, Trump is going to win the Republican nomination, indictments and impeachments and threats against democracy be damned. In fact, those seem to be selling points, particularly among the Fox News crowd. More’s the pity.

And the thought of DeSantis and Haley giving programmed and poll-checked answers while sporting grins that make them look like they’re trying to hide a headache is a lot to put up with. But this is where we are, for better or worse. Mostly worse.

How to watch the 5th Republican debate

7 p.m. Arizona time on Wednesday, Jan. 10 on CNN. Stream on CNN.com.

How to watch Donald Trump's town hall

7 p.m. Arizona time on Wednesday, Jan. 10 on Fox News. Stream on Foxnews.com and CNN Max.

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Reach Goodykoontz at bill.goodykoontz@arizonarepublic.com. Facebook: facebook.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: @goodyk.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: What time is Republican debate? Here's how to watch and stream