The first Republican presidential primary debate is scheduled for August, but voters who are hoping to see former President Donald Trump take on others in the field might be disappointed.
Trump, who has been the front-runner since announcing his bid last year, has not yet confirmed whether he will participate in any of the debates and could schedule his own competing event for the same night.
Campaign insiders have signaled that he does not believe it is important to participate since he continues to enjoy such a commanding lead in the polls — but he has not yet ruled out joining his rivals on the debate stage.
“He wants to know what everyone thinks but will ultimately do what he wants to do,” one adviser explained. “But if he does not debate, I doubt he’s staying home.”
Another potential reason for skipping the August debate, at least from Trump’s point of view, would be that doing so would likely hurt Fox News Channel’s ratings. The network is scheduled to host the first GOP primary debate.
He has been publicly feuding with Fox News for months over its coverage and recently mentioned the upcoming debate in a Truth Social post on the matter.
“So [Fox News], which is down 37% in the Ratings, doesn’t cover my getting the ‘Man of the Decade’ Award (because of my great trade policies!) in Michigan, or my Keynote Speech for Faith & Freedom in D.C., and then wants me to show up and get them ratings for their ‘Presidential’ Debate, where I’m leading the field by 40 points,” he wrote.
Yet another potential motivation for skipping the primary debates lies in a Republican National Committee rule establishing the prerequisite that all candidates pledge to support the party’s eventual nominee.
Whether he is there in person or not, Trump is sure to be a frequently cited topic in the debate. Some of the contenders vying for attention thus far in the primary race have identified him as a primary, if not exclusive, target.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for example, has seemingly based his entire platform on criticizing Trump.
Trump says he doesn’t “think it’s fair” for him to have to debate.
Crybabies and losers say life isn’t fair. And Trump is both.
Want to be President? Then get in the ring pal… pic.twitter.com/8oW1WxNWN4
— Chris Christie (@GovChristie) June 22, 2023
He recently called on the former president to “take a pledge today to instruct his campaign to no longer spend any public money on his legal fees,” claiming that Trump “should be ashamed of himself.”