Former President Donald Trump has been wishy-washy at best about whether he’ll participate in the 2024 Republican National Committee-sponsored presidential debates. Toss in the question of whether Trump will again refuse to sign a pledge to support a nominee not him, as he did in 2016, and things get even more interesting. On Friday, Ron DeSantis kicked it up a notch or ten.
As to refusing to participate in the debates, Trump’s argument has gone as follows.
When you have a big lead, you don’t do it. And we have a lead of 50 and 60 points in some cases and some of these people are at zero.
Ron DeSanctis, as I call him, or DeSanctimonious, is down to… He’s in the teens now and I’m at 50 and 60 and 65. And even I saw one today at 70. And so you’re leading people by 50 and 60 points and you say, why would you be doing a debate?…
Why would you let somebody that’s at zero, or one or two or three, you know, be popping you with questions?
Why? Because the American people — and first of all, Republican voters — deserve the opportunity to hear from all candidates, in an open forum, where their responses or positions can be openly challenged or debated. Perhaps that’s the former president’s greatest concern.
Additionally, as my colleague Joe Cunningham reported on Wednesday, given Trump’s multitude of legal problems, and his propensity to go off-script and say just about anything, his legal team might very be concerned about further legal exposure if resorts to unscripted answers in response to questions he doesn’t like. That assessment is not only fair; their oodles of legitimate examples to back it up.
So What About the Pledge?
During an interview with Newsmax host Eric Bolling on Wednesday, Trump told the former Fox News host that there are a number of candidates in the GOP field that he’d never consider endorsing for president. Therefore, he reasoned, he won’t sign the so-called “Beat Biden Pledge.” The pledge reads, in part:
I affirm that if I do not win the 2024 Republican nomination for President of the United States, I will honor the will of the primary voters and support the nominee in order to save our country and beat Joe Biden.
That should be a no-brainer.
See you in Milwaukee! pic.twitter.com/zFeGjrtLph
— Team DeSantis (@TeamDeSantis) August 9, 2023
The pledge also says candidates who refuse to sign it or who participate in non-RNC-sponsored debates won’t be eligible to participate in future RNC debates. Nevertheless, Trump used the following rationale as he explained why he won’t sign it.
I wouldn’t sign the pledge. Why would I sign a pledge? There are people on there that I wouldn’t have. I wouldn’t have certain people as, you know, somebody that I’d endorse. I can name three or four people that I wouldn’t support for president. So right there, there’s a problem.
Is there? DeSantis begs to differ.
The Florida governor said on Friday, in no uncertain terms:
I mean you can’t, on the one hand, say that the country’s going in such a bad direction, which we all believe, and then, on the other hand, say you’re just going to take your ball and go home.
I’ve voted Republican my whole life. And, you know, even though, you know, I’m confident we’ll be the nominee, at the end of the day, you know, you respect the judgment of how this works out, and you don’t take your ball and go home.
And then this bottom-line blast:
It’s not just about you. It’s about a larger mission that we have to accomplish for Americans.
While I’m fully aware that a substantial number of Republican voters agree with Trump’s rationale, let’s look at it this way:
Remove the names and go with Candidate A and Candidate B, or better yet, reverse the names. What if DeSantis was way ahead in pre-debate polls and Trump trailing, far behind? Would the former president’s supporters take kindly to DeSantis refusing to debate Trump, or to refuse to sign a pledge to support the eventual nominee if DeSantis doesn’t win the nomination?
The question is rhetorical — of course not.
The Bottom Line
While Trump — or any Republican candidate — might not be a fan of this or that GOP candidate, any one of them is a no-brainer choice over Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, or whoever the hell the Democrat nominee might be.
As I said, that’s a no-brainer, folks — and it should be such for every Republican candidate in the race.