Trump suggests he won’t participate in first GOP debate: ‘It’s actually not fair’

‘When you have a big lead, you don’t do it’

Alex Woodward
Sunday 16 July 2023 16:18 BST
Trump suggests he will not participate in first GOP debate

Donald Trump has suggested he will not participate in the first debate among candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, telling Fox News host Maria Bartiromo that it’s “not fair” for candidates who are polling well to be asked questions alongside lower-polling candidates.

“Well, you know, it’s quite an easy question normally,” the former president said in a taped interview that aired on Sunday Morning Futures on 16 July when asked directly whether he will join the debate scheduled for 23 August.

“Ronald Reagan didn’t do it. A lot of people didn’t do it. When you have a big lead, you don’t do it,” he said.

He added: “Why would you be doing a debate? It’s actually not fair. Why would you let someone that’s [polling] at zero, or one, or two, or three, you know, be popping you with questions.”

The crowded field of candidates must hit certain fundraising and polling thresholds – and sign a “loyalty pledge” to support the eventual party nominee – to make it to the debate stage.

Eight candidates have met a polling threshold for the first debate, including Trump booster Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.

The former president is leading the field, followed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

In an interview on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Mr Christie told host George Stephanopoulos that he believes Mr Trump’s “ego” will “not permit him to have a big TV show that he’s not on”.

“Come on, Donald, get on the stage and defend your record,” he said. “If you want to be the nominee, you need to defend your record. And he has a record, four years as president, where he didn’t deliver on a lot of issues that Republicans cared deeply about.”

Mr Trump’s appearance on the network comes one day after his rambling remarks to right-wing activist group Turning Point USA’s Turning Point Action Conference in Florida, where he painted a typically bleak picture of the state of the US and denied wrongdoing in the multiple investigations and indictments against him.

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