As expected, Donald Trump is not going to show up for the first GOP primary debate on August, 23rd. That announcement came via a new report from Maggie Haberman, the far-left reporter from The New York Times who has long had an inside line directly to the former president.
As to what Trump will do instead, he’ll reportedly sit down for an interview with Tucker Carlson in an attempt to overshadow and upstage the candidates who do show up to face the primary voters.
Former President Donald J. Trump plans to upstage the first Republican primary debate on Wednesday by sitting for an online interview with the former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, according to multiple people briefed on the matter.
In the past 24 hours, Mr. Trump has told people close to him that he has made up his mind and will skip the debate in Milwaukee, according to two of the people briefed on the matter.
Frankly, if a candidate for the presidency is not an incumbent, I think they owe it to voters and their party to show up and debate. There is no perfect Republican politician. Anyone running has things they should be made to answer for and explain, including how they might do things differently in the future. There is also no downside to that kind of debate happening. At worst, it sharpens a candidate for the general election by allowing them to hone their message outside of the friendly confines of supportive conservative circles.
With all that said, Trump is going to do what Trump wants to do. I understand that, and because he enjoys a large national polling lead, he obviously feels it’s not worth the risk to show up. Still, that does not mean the RNC should be overly accommodating to candidates who thumb their nose at the process.
According to another report, RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel personally invited Rep. Byron Donalds, a top Trump surrogate, to show up at the debate and defend the former president on various panels.
The Congressman was invited by RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel
— Brendon Leslie (@BrendonLeslie) August 17, 2023
That feels way too much like trying to rig the process, in my opinion. Did any other candidate get the offer to not show up and not sign the loyalty pledge but still be represented during the event? It’s the kind of special treatment that Trump supporters (including me) would have never accepted during the 2016 cycle had it been done in favor of someone like Jeb Bush.
If you want an example of the establishment meddling in the primary, there it is. The fact that it’s benefiting Trump doesn’t make it acceptable.
There also needs to be an RNC response as to what happens after this. Will Trump be effectively allowed to pick and choose what debates he shows up to? Or will the RNC hold to a standard that demands inclusion in all the debates in order to participate? These are things that should have been clearly defined long before mid-August, and while it’s too late now, I think voters would have valued debate participation far more than the loyalty pledge (which is unenforceable and means nothing).
Instead of a meaningless loyalty pledge the RNC should require a candidate to participate in all party-sanctioned debates to be eligible for nomination at the convention in Milwaukee.
— Gordon Ackley (@GordonAckleyVI) August 18, 2023
If the former president feels he can win the primary without debating, that’s on him, but the RNC should not be putting its thumb on the scale by letting a candidate undermine the debates while also having his narrative pushed at them. You either show up or you don’t. There shouldn’t be any workarounds offered, and McDaniel, even being a Trump ally, should be expected to maintain a sense of impartiality during the process. She’s not doing that, and it’s yet another reason she never should have been re-elected to her position in the first place.