What will happen if Donald Trump skips the first Republican debate? Is he being a coward?: Trump’s threats to set out the first debate on Fox News next month, despite threats from GOP leadership, show once again that he’s way bigger than the Republican Party
Donald Trump Looking Like a Coward?
In the last contested Republican presidential primary, in 2016, Donald Trump bucked the rules repeatedly, including by refusing to declare that he would endorse the eventual Republican presidential nominee, and by skipping a debate.
Ahead of this year’s race, the party put rules in place, seemingly geared towards preventing a repeat of that. The Republican National Committee has made pledging to support the eventual GOP presidential nominee a condition to participate in debates, while Trump has refused to do so.
But Trump is, once again, threatening to skip the first debate.
According to The Hill, Trump is threatening to sit out the first debate, which Fox News is scheduled to host on August 23.
Trump’s threats, per the report, “ would be a bad look for their party if Trump skips it.” Others believe, meanwhile, that Trump is holding off on committing in order to obtain leverage over the format, as well as ticket allocations.
Rep. Joni Ernst (R-IA), who represents the state where the first debate will take place, weighed in to The Hill after Trump skipped her “Roast and Ride” event earlier this summer.
“Yes, he should,” Ernst said of Trump’s participation. “I think all of our Republican candidates need to express their views on the topics that are really important not just to Iowans but to all Americans.”
Top Senate Republican Sen. John Thune (R-SD) also called for Trump to attend the debate.
“The best thing is to get the candidates and their ideas in front of Republican voters in this country, and that includes him. It’s a very deep field this year and a lot of good candidates, and a robust debate that highlights their views and their differences is good for the process,” Thune told The Hill. “I’m all for everybody being on the stage.”
However, Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) was supportive of Trump skipping the debate, should he so choose.
One anonymous strategist looked at the question of whether Trump should, or will, participate.
“As of right now, Trump doesn’t want to give Ron the opportunity to be seen on stage with him. But also, there’s Christie nipping at his heels,” the strategist told The Hill. “I can see him using it to put leverage to change the rules in his favor. You know Trump: There isn’t a camera he doesn’t love.”
The truth is, however, that Trump is the frontrunner in the Republican race by a large margin, he very clearly doesn’t care what the party wants or thinks, and the RNC doesn’t really have the power to do anything to get him to do what he doesn’t want to do.
According to the latest Morning Consult tracking poll, released Tuesday, Trump leads the Republican contest with 56 percent report, with Gov. Ron DeSantis still second with just 17 percent. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy has pushed into third place, with 8 percent, followed by former Vice President Mike Pence with 7 percent. Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and Chris Christie each have 3 percent support.
DeSantis’ 17 percent support, per Morning Consult, is the lowest level of his support since the poll began last year. The poll also found that former New Jersey Gov. Christie, who is running the most explicitly anti-Trump campaign of any of the candidates, is “widely disliked among the GOP electorate.”
“Almost half of potential GOP primary voters (46%) hold unfavorable views of the former New Jersey governor, compared with 26% who view him favorably,” Morning Consult said.
As for potential head-to-head general election matchups, Trump is down 1 point against President Biden — after the previous edition of the poll had Trump leading the incumbent president – while Biden leads DeSantis by 5 points.
Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.