Former President Donald Trump has privately told advisors he is considering skipping at least one of the first debates in the presidential cycle, allegedly saying, “I’m up by too many points.”
One advisor, speaking with the New York Times, said Trump has pointed to recent polls showing him leading Florida Governor Ron DeSantis by over 30 points while all other presidential contenders wallow in the single digits. Joining them on stage, Trump asserts, would only give free airtime to competitors he is otherwise free to ignore.
CNN recently broke down the president’s strategy:
— POLITICO Press (@POLITICOPress) April 26, 2023
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced that the first RNC-sponsored debate would be held in August, meaning there are still at least five months for the nascent field to grow and polls to change. However, as candidates like former Trump ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and DeSantis have announced campaigns or toyed with running, President Trump has maintained a commanding lead among the GOP faithful.
The ex-president knows firsthand how important debates can be ahead of early-voting state primaries, and he credits the 2015 presidential debates with giving his campaign the momentum to notch early wins on the trail. A debate that year sponsored by Fox News attracted 24 million viewers.
Another reason Trump may skip debates is the axe he grinds with Fox News and other sponsors like the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library whose chairman, Frederick J. Ryan Jr., also serves as the publisher and chief executive officer of The Washington Post, a fact that he regularly brings up.
While the library has invited Haley and DeSantis to give speeches, it has never extended a similar offer to the former president.
Still, the famously fickle president may find it hard to stay away if rivals continue to criticize his time in the White House as chaotic, a theme that DeSantis has been promoting as he prepares to jump into the race in the coming weeks.