Is Donald Trump Preparing to Avoid GOP Debates Entirely? – With just weeks to go before the first Republican primary debate is due to take place – an event once expected to cause even more drama than the famous 2016 debates – it looks increasingly likely that former President Donald Trump just won’t turn up.
The event is due to take place in Milwaukee on August 23.
At least one Republican candidate also doesn’t believe that the frontrunner will turn up. Chris Christie, who ran in the 2016 presidential primary race before dropping out and eventually backing Trump, told the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd that he doesn’t believe Trump’s ego would “permit him” to attend the debates.
Trump himself has already hinted at the likelihood he won’t turn up to the debates. During an interview with Fox in June, the former president pondered, “Why would I let these people take shots at me?”
Donald Trump: He Probably Doesn’t Need to Debate
For Donald Trump, there could be more downsides to turning up to the debates than benefits.
While attending the debates would show good faith, and perhaps give him an opportunity to win over a handful of Republicans who aren’t already convinced by his candidacy, it would also give high-profile GOP candidates like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis an opportunity to grill him on issues that GOP voters care about.
Polls show Trump comfortably leading in the Republican race, with an average of 52% support among likely Republican primary voters as of July 5. Governor DeSantis, his most competitive challenger, averages out at 23.3%. While DeSantis’ numbers don’t look good compared to Trump, they are by no means insignificant, and a solid performance at the debates could theoretically make him more competitive. And, if Trump maintains his current level of support, DeSantis can’t win the nomination even if every other Republican candidate drops out and backs him.
Chances are, Trump has substantially more than 50% support within the party once candidates like Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy – both at 3.9% – inevitably drop out the race and support him.
However, if Trump does turn up to the debates, it could signal one of two things; that the former president is so confident in his win that he’s willing to use it as an opportunity to throw his weight around, or that he’s secretly concerned about DeSantis and wants an opportunity to destroy him in person as he did with Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush nearly eight years ago.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.