Is Donald Trump skipping the debate?: The former president says he won’t take the loyalty pledge demanded of participants in the first Republican presidential debate, but he hasn’t officially said he won’t debate
Donald Trump Looks Like a Coward If He Won’t Debate
In order to head off a calamitous primary season like its last competitive primary in 2016, when Donald Trump ran roughshod over the rest of the field and openly insulted his opponents throughout each debate, the Republican National Committee put new rules in place for this season.
Republican candidates are now required to sign a pledge to endorse the eventual GOP nominee and to not participate in non-sanctioned debates. And Trump said in an interview earlier this week that he will not take that pledge.
In 2015, Trump had been the only Republican candidate not to raise his hand when asked if he would pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee, although he did later agree to sign a loyalty pledge. The issue at the time was that Trump if he didn’t get the Republican nomination, would run as a third-party candidate.
“I wouldn’t sign the pledge. Why would I sign a pledge if there are people on there that I wouldn’t have? I wouldn’t have certain people as somebody that I would endorse,” Trump said in an interview with Newsmax host Eric Bolling, as reported by The Hill.
Ron DeSantis did agree to sign the loyalty pledge, earlier this week, and it doesn’t appear that any of the other candidates are hesitating to sign the pledge. The first debate is set to take place on August 23, which is less than two weeks away, and candidates have until 48 hours beforehand to decide whether to participate. DeSantis has also agreed to debate California Gov. Gavin Newsom later this year, although that is not a party-sanctioned debate and therefore does not violate the part of the pledge about non-sanctioned debates.
What Will Donald Trump Do?
Trump, while hinting for the last several weeks that he might skip the first primary debate, hasn’t officially bowed out, and said in the Bolling interview that he will announce his intentions next week. Should Trump decide he wants to debate, while refusing to sign the pledge, it would fall to the RNC to decide whether to enforce that pledge.
“I’ve already decided, and I’ll be announcing something next week,” Trump said. “I haven’t totally ruled it out.”
Trump had been open, including in a Fox News interview earlier this summer, about seeing no advantage for someone with a large lead such as his to participate in a debate.
“Ronald Reagan didn’t do it and a lot of other people didn’t do it. When you have a big lead, you don’t do it,” Trump said on Fox News in July.
“We have a lead of 50 and 60 points in some cases. … You’re leading people by 50 and 60 points, you say why would you be doing a debate? It’s actually not fair,” Trump explained. “Why would you let somebody that’s at zero or one or two or three be popping you with questions?”
A pro-Chris Christie Super PAC, as a result, made an ad asking Trump if he is a “chicken” or “just a loser.”
Trump’s interview with Bolling made news for another reason: Per The Daily Beast, Trump stated multiple times in the interview that the 2020 election had been rigged. And afterward, the network cut away to a disclaimer stating that “alright, folks. Now, just a note. Newsmax has accepted the election results as legal and final.” Bolling’s interview with Trump had been pre-taped.
This appeared to be in reaction to lawsuits that have been filed against Newsmax by voting machine companies Smartmatic and Dominion after Newsmax trafficked in election conspiracy theories about them in the aftermath of the 2020 election. It was similar to the lawsuit by Dominion against Fox News, which led to a $787 million settlement earlier this year.
Author 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.