It’s likely Donald Trump will skip Wednesday’s GOP presidential primary debate — a calculated move some policy pundits fear could backfire.
On Friday the New York Times reported that Trump plans to eclipse his rivals by skipping the Fox News-hosted event and instead conducting an online interview with the station’s former host Tucker Carlson.
In posts on his Truth Social website, Trump has been vocal about the possibility of skipping the debate, citing his huge nationwide lead in the polls over Republican rivals.
But Steven Shepard, editor-in-chief of campaigns and elections at Politico, argued an analysis that passing on the debate “is unlikely to work in Trump’s favor.”
“Much of the movement in the recent primaries was timed by the nationally televised debates,” he wrote.
“Candidates sink or swim based on their debate performances – and the first debate was often the catalyst for the first real changes in those races.”
Trump is comfortably ahead in nationwide polls in the Republican primary, although experts say the first primary debate often leads to big changes in the polls
In posts on his Truth Social website, Trump (seen Aug. 13) has been vocal about the possibility of skipping the debate, citing his huge nationwide lead in the polls over Republican rivals
Trump’s absence could mean a poll setback for Ron DeSantis, who is a distant second among Republicans, if the Florida governor delivers a strong debate performance next week.
However, there are also risks for DeSantis: With leader Trump gone, DeSantis will be the focus of attacks from the rest of the field, and his ability to parry successfully will be crucial.
Meanwhile, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is waging a campaign largely based on disparaging Trump, has already warned that the front runner is unlikely to take part in the debate.
In a post on X, Christie called Trump a “confirmed loser” and a “confirmed coward.”
“If he thinks he should be the nominee, if he thinks he has such a great record, if he thinks he’s the best person to run against Joe Biden, then show up Wednesday night and listen stop being such a coward,” Christie told MSNBC on Friday.
“If what he said was true, that he has a great track record as President and is so far ahead, why don’t you come on stage and do a victory lap?”
According to a campaign spokesman, Trump’s debate plans have not yet been officially confirmed.
Trump’s absence could spell a poll drop for Ron DeSantis, but it also poses risks as the Florida governor is likely to be the focus of attacks from the rest of the electorate
Trump left the door ajar on Friday to appear at Wednesday’s debate in Milwaukee, but the New York Times reported he is unlikely to attend
However, Trump has been hinting for months that he would reject the first debate – on the grounds that he is far ahead of all his peers in the polls.
“A lot of people are asking if I’m going to join DEBATES or not?” he posted on Truth Social on Friday. “People know my record, one of the BEST of all time, so why should I debate?” I AM YOUR MAN. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!’
In the same post, Trump said that “ALL AMERICANS have been calling for a President of extremely high intelligence.”
“As everyone knows, my poll numbers are exceptional against a ‘wonderful’ field of Republican candidates,” he continued. “In fact, I’m more than 50 points ahead of the runner-up, whoever that may be.”
“Reagan didn’t do it, and neither did others,” Trump said.
Trump was referring to Reagan’s decision in 1980 to omit the Republican debate on the Des Moines Register — the first ever televised GOP debate.
In Reagan’s case, the decision briefly backfired after George HW had a good night and eventually won the Iowa primary.
Reagan, however, became the eventual nominee, making Bush his vice president.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump also skipped an Iowa primary debate because — as now — he was at odds with Fox News Channel.
Former President Donald Trump participated in all but one Republican primary debate in the 2016 cycle
In 2016, Trump fell out with then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly over her difficult questions in a previous debate.
According to New York Times sources, Trump is also likely to skip the second Republican presidential debate this election cycle.
It will take place on September 27th at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
The library’s prominent speaker series has snubbed Trump but invited critics, including former Rep. Liz Cheney, one of two now-former GOP lawmakers serving on the House Special Committee on Jan. 6.