Former President Donald Trump took to Truth Social Sunday to confirm that he will not be appearing in Wednesday’s upcoming GOP primary debate—while also hinting that he may not participate in future events either.
Trump first referred to his “legendary” poll numbers, then he threw out his trademark nicknames for his opponents, calling Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ”DeSanctimonious,” former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie “Sloppy,” and referring to former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson as “Aida.” He could be referring to the tragic opera, or perhaps he meant to use a moniker he’s used in the past: “Ada.” He said in June:
I call him Ada Hutchinson. I don’t call him Asa, I call him Ada Hutchinson, for some reason for certain reasons, but this guy nobody knows who the hell he is.
Trump is correct about one thing: he has a commanding lead in the polls, as I reported Sunday:
He continued, writing, “I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!”
The question is, is he ruling out all future debates with that statement?
It was not immediately clear whether Trump meant he will sit out all currently scheduled debates – there is a second GOP primary debate set for September – or any and all future debates.
A Trump adviser told CNN that the former president could still decide to participate in a later primary debate, despite his post.
Trump has told a number of allies that he does not want to debate at the Reagan Library, the location of the second debate, and complained in private conversations that he has never been invited to speak at the venue, blaming, in part, the chairman of the board of trustees, Fred Ryan. Ryan was the chief executive officer of the Washington Post.
As we’ve reported, Trump had already indicated that he was not planning on showing up Wednesday and is opting instead for a prerecorded interview with former Fox News star Tucker Carlson. However, GOP officials as recently as this weekend were still trying to convince the former president to change his mind:
Still, Republican officials had been publicly seeking to convince Trump to join the debate stage as recently as Sunday morning.
Hours before Trump posted, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel said she hoped he would debate. “I’m still holding out hope that President Trump will come. I think it’s so important that the American people hear from all the candidates,” McDaniel said on Fox News.
McDaniel and David Bossie, who is in charge of the RNC debate committee, visited Trump at his Bedminster, New Jersey, home in recent weeks to encourage him to participate, according to a Trump adviser. The former president was noncommittal on his plans during this meeting.
Fox News president Jay Wallace and the network’s chief executive, Suzanne Scott, had also encouraged Trump to participate in the debate.
Rivals like Chris Christie are lambasting the former president for his refusal to appear:
Surprise, surprise… the guy who is out on bail from four jurisdictions and can’t defend his reprehensible conduct, is running scared and hiding from the debate stage.
Trump – certified loser, verified coward. https://t.co/plGjaBngVP
— Chris Christie (@GovChristie) August 18, 2023
However, as much as many people would like to see him on the stage, it’s hard to argue with Trump’s logic. With such a huge polling advantage, he has little to gain by sparring with his competitors at this juncture. In addition, were he to show up, viewership would likely be much higher, giving the other contenders increased exposure.
Many may criticize Trump for his decision, but I don’t really see that he has much to gain by attending.