Former President Donald Trump is likely to be a no-show for at least one of the first two GOP presidential primary debates, the New York Times reported Tuesday—a unique strategy for the ex-president who typically relishes the spotlight and speaks pridefully about his debate performances during the 2016 election cycle.
Trump has told his aides and confidants he doesn’t want to give the other candidates unnecessary publicity, while citing his wide leads in hypothetical GOP primary matchups, according to the Times, citing five people who discussed the events with him.
Trump also has a grudge against the two hosting entities: Fox News, which is holding the first debate in Milwaukee in August, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, which is set to hold the second debate.
Trump has been feuding with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire since its outlets declared President Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election and have since strayed from fawning coverage of Trump.
As for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Trump is reportedly miffed it has hosted other prominent Republicans for speaking events, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and by its connection to the Washington Post, which Trump has repeatedly criticized and whose publisher and CEO Frederick Ryan Jr. serves as chair of the library’s board of trustees.
Trump is also concerned that the debates could draw attention to his indictment in Manhattan criminal court, according to the Times.
It wouldn’t be the first time Trump has sat out a debate—he skipped one hosted by Fox News in January 2016 due to a feud with anchor Megyn Kelly, and instead hosted a dueling veterans event in Iowa.
46. That’s the number of points Trump leads DeSantis by in a hypothetical matchup, according to an Emerson College poll released Thursday.
Trump alluded that he could skip the debates last week, after the Republican National Committee announced Fox would host the first event in August. “I see that everybody is talking about the Republican debates, but nobody got my approval, or the approval of the Trump Campaign, before announcing them,” Trump wrote last Tuesday on Truth Social. He had reportedly urged the RNC not to announce the debates until after Labor Day, according to the Times. The former president has also appeared non-committal to a likely RNC demand that all primary debate participants promise to support the party’s nominee. Trump has committed, however, to participating in a CNN town hall next week in New Hampshire, which will be his first appearance on the network since his 2016 campaign.
What To Watch For
Who else will enter the GOP presidential primary race. So far, four candidates have officially announced challenges to Trump: former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is widely expected to launch an exploratory committee later this month, followed by a mid-June announcement. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C), former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have also indicated they are considering jumping in the race.
Trump’s absence from any debate stage would undoubtedly curb its viewership and limit the other candidates’ access to the spotlight. The first primary debate of the 2016 presidential election cycle hosted by Fox in 2015 netted the largest audience of any non-sports event in cable history, the Times noted.
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