Donald Trump made it clear he has no intention to debate his Republican rivals at this week’s debate in Milwaukee on Truth Social.
Instead, the former president will be the focus of a taped interview with ex-Fox News host Tucker Carlson, expected to be uploaded today at somepoint.
The following day, Trump will be arrested in Georgia in a move timed to limit any momentum from a rival’s strong performance at the previous night’s debate.
The New York Times reports that Trump’s decision to skip the debates came even after Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel implored the frontrunner to attend.
She reportedly claimed that by skipping the GOP debate, Trump would be giving President Joe Biden an excuse to skip a future match-up between the two next year.
Trump’s intentions of absence were clear when it emerged he had refused to sign a Republican Party pledge to only participate in debates sanctioned by the GOP, as well as promise support for the presidential nominee in 2024. Refusing to sign keeps Trump available for debates outside the GOP scope. As one insider told the Times, the party committee “will not control the party nominee’s debate strategy in the general election.”
The Commission on Presidential Debates (C.P.D.)
Every presidential election since 1976 has had at least two televised debates between the party nominees, with the process overseen by the C.P.D. continually since 1988. Republicans and Democrats run the C.P.D., although disputes on both sides have arisen in recent years.
Republicans have toyed with the idea of replacing the C.P.D. following 2020, simultaneously pushing for changes into each debate’s format while seeking alternative hosts. Then-CNN moderator Candy Crowley was slammed by conservatives for her real time fact-checking of Mitt Romney in 2012, while Trump’s team criticized the selection of former Fox News host Chris Wallace eight years later.
The Democrats have also had their recent troubles with the C.P.D. as recently as 2020. Biden’s team were angered over the COVID-19 measures in place at the time, heightened only further by the refusal to wear masks by members of his opponent’s family. Subsequent reports that Donald Trump tested positive for the virus prior to the debates have not helped to ease tensions.
Trump’s willingness to debate Biden means he may have to seek options not formally approved by the Republican National Committee. That said, his refusal to debate in the primaries is already beginning to haunt him, not helped by GOP opponents resurfacing his old tweets. “If Joe Biden is too scared to debate, he’s too scared to run the country,” Trump wrote on X, formerly Twitter, in August 2020.
A top aide to former president Barack Obama, David Axelrod, told the Times that the issue for the Biden campaign is not whether they can agree to rules, but whether Donald Trump will follow them. “I think the fact that Trump is utterly irresponsible and turns every event into a circus and a platform for disseminating disinformation is the basis for saying: This isn’t worthwhile,” said Axelrod.
He added that the question over whether Biden will skip next year’s debates is a “valid” one. However, whether the public feels the incumbent should skip them “is another question.”
Shay Bottomley is a British journalist based in Canada. He has written for the Western Standard, Maidenhead Advertiser, Slough Express, Windsor Express, Berkshire Live and Southend Echo, and has covered notable events, including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
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