Former President Donald Trump confirmed on Sunday that he will skip Wednesday’s first Republican presidential primary debate — and others as well.
“The public knows who I am and what a successful presidency I had,” Trump wrote on his social media site. “I WILL NOT DO THE DEBATES!” His spokesperson did not immediately clarify whether he plans to boycott every primary debate or just those currently scheduled.
The former president and early GOP frontrunner had said for months that he saw little benefit in joining his GOP rivals on the podium when they meet for the first time in Milwaukee on Wednesday, given his commanding lead in the race. And he had made it clear to those he had spoken to in recent days that his opinion had not changed.
“Why should I allow 1 or 2 percent and 0 percent people to pester me with questions all night?” he said in June in an interview with Fox News host Bret Baier, who will serve as moderator. Trump has also repeatedly criticized Fox, the host of the Aug. 23 primetime event, insisting it is a “hostile network” that he doesn’t think will treat him fairly.
Trump had discussed a number of options for counterprogramming debates, including an interview with ex-Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who hosts a show on the website formerly known as Twitter. Carlson was seen at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey prior to the announcement, according to a person familiar with the visit who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about it. The New York Times reported on Saturday that the interview that will be broadcast on Wednesday has already been recorded.
“We can’t confirm or deny it — stay tuned,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said.
The idea was one of many alternatives Trump had put forward in talks in recent weeks. Among other things, they may have showed up at the last minute in Milwaukee or were present but sat in the audience and provided live commentary on his Truth Social site. He had also talked about possibly bringing in different networks to take viewers out of the debate, or hold a rally instead.
The decision marks a new chapter in Trump’s ongoing feud with Fox, who was once a staunch defender but is now seen as more favorable to his main rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Fox executives and hosts had lobbied Trump to attend, both in private and on the network’s airwaves. But Trump, according to a person close to him, was staunch, believing that executives wouldn’t have courted him if they weren’t concerned about their ratings.
An acquaintance had said earlier Sunday that Trump and his team had not informed the Republican National Committee of his plans.
Meanwhile, Trump’s rivals had pushed him to show up and prepare in the hopes that he would, fearful that a no-show would make them look like second-level candidates and deprive them of the chance to win an election. deal knockout blow against the Goliath of the race that could change the trajectory of the race.
Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, one of the few candidates willing to run directly against Trump, accuses the former president of “lacking the guts to show up” and calling him “a coward” as he doesn’t.
A super-PAC backing DeSantis also released an ad in which the narrator says, “We can’t afford a nominee too weak to debate.”
Trump has pushed back the attacks, telling Newsmax’s Eric Bolling that he saw little benefit in participating when he was already leading by a wide margin.
“It’s not a matter of guts. It’s a matter of intelligence,” he said.
Trump has also said he will not sign a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee if he loses the nomination — a requirement of the Republican National Committee to appear on stage.
“Why should I sign it?” he said. “I can name three or four people I wouldn’t support as president. So right there is a problem.
Nevertheless, his advisers insisted for weeks that he was yet to make a final decision, even though they acknowledged it was “quite clear” from his public and private statements that he was unlikely to appear.
It’s not the first time Trump has chosen to skip a major GOP debate.
During his 2016 campaign, Trump decided to forgo the last GOP primary showdown before the Iowa caucuses and instead held his own campaign event — a flashy telethon-style rally in Iowa billed as a fundraiser for veterans.
While the event earned him headlines and diverted attention from his rivals, Trump lost the Iowa primary to Texas Senator Ted Cruz — a loss that some former aides have attributed, at least in part, to his decision to skip the debate. .
In 2020, Trump pulled out of the second general election debate against current President Joe Biden after the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonpartisan group that has organized general election debates for more than three decades, tried to make it virtual after Trump tested positive for COVID 19 Trump declined, saying he would only debate on stage.
Trump isn’t the only candidate likely to miss Wednesday’s event. It seems unlikely that several lesser-known rivals will meet the entry threshold set by the RNC. To be eligible, candidates must have received contributions from at least 40,000 individual donors, with at least 200 unique donors in 20 or more states. They must also get at least 1 percent in three designated national polls between July 1 and August 21, or a mix of national and early state polls.
Candidates who met the qualifications include DeSantis, Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.
In addition to fundraising and polling requirements, the RNC has said candidates must also sign the pledge agreeing to support the final party nominee and agreeing not to participate in any non-RNC-sanctioned debate for the rest of the election cycle . The RNC is boycotting events organized by the Commission for Presidential Debates, citing alleged bias.
“I affirm that if I do not win the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 2024, I will honor the will of the primary voters and support the nominee to save our country and defeat Joe Biden,” the pledge reads . to a copy posted by DeSantis on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. Candidates must also pledge not to apply as an independent, enrolled candidate or third-party nominee.
While several candidates, including Christie and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, have objected to the requirement, former Texas Representative Will Hurd is the only one so far to have said definitively that he will not sign the pledge because he refuses Support Trump if he becomes the final nominee. Christie has said he will sign whatever it takes to get him on stage.
In addition to voicing opposition to the loyalty pledge, Trump has suggested he opposes boycotting general election debates organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates. “You’re really obligated to do that,” he said in a radio interview this spring.