Republicans are beginning to pressure Donald Trump into joining the next GOP presidential debate, presumably because they think it will degrade Trump’s chances of earning the nomination.
But I’m not so sure that’s a great idea.
As Hillary Clinton can tell you, debating Trump has its risks.
Will Donald Trump enter the debate?
“I think it’ll happen,” Priebus said on ABC’s “This Week.” Priebus added that the nation is engulfed in “middle finger politics…the world of WrestleMania politics, the world where, you know, attention is what everyone is seeking in order to get support.”
Priebus is certainly correct about the nature of modern politics. And I think he’s right; I have trouble seeing Trump sit out a debate, an opportunity to get up on the stage, under the bright lights, with a national television audience. Trump ain’t the type to turn something like that down.
Do GOP rivals want to debate Trump?
Chris Christie is pestering Trump to join the debate. Christie and Trump have history of course. The two candidates sparred on the debate stage during the 2016 campaign, and then, when Christie dropped from the race, he became one of the first major names to endorse Trump, presumably as an angle towards joining an eventual Trump administration.
But when Trump won the 2016 election, he dropped Christie from the administration, in what was rumored to be blowback from Jared Kushner, whose father Christie once prosecuted.
In any case, Christie wants Trump to jump into the 2024 debates, so the two can hash out a variety of hot button issues (Trump’s indictments, abortion, etc.). “These are the kind of issues we need to be discussing on the debate stage,” Christie said.
But maybe Christie should be more careful about enticing Trump into the debates.
Trump is difficult to debate
The problem with debating Donald Trump is that he doesn’t really meet his fellow candidates on the plane of conversation that is expected.
Most presidential candidates want to discuss healthcare or tax rates or foreign policy in varying degrees of nuance. Trump wants to get personal and talk trash.
It’s not a game most candidates can play. And while most candidates would come away from a debate performance in which they just talked trash and failed to articulate policy positions clearly worse for wear, Trump usually comes away having endeared himself further to his base.
Worse still for opponents, is that Trump has a knack for rebranding opponents in an instant, usually with a simple yet insightful nickname like Crooked Hillary or Sleepy Jeb.
Trump recently rolled out DeSanctimonious for Ron DeSantis and like all the rest, it’s probably going to stick.
A Big Call to Make
I understand the logic behind wanting to debate Trump. The guy is not a serious candidate. He’s not a technocrat, he’s not an academic, he’s not especially knowledgeable and he’s not especially articulate. But the guy understands television and he understands flash-marketing and branding and he’s a master at staying above (below?) the meat of the conversation; he avoids the substance of the debate as if it doesn’t interest him. GOP opponents should be careful about debating Trump.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.