Sorry, Fox News. Trump says he’s not going to the debate.

Sorry, Fox News. Trump says he’s not going to the debate.

Former President Donald Trump said he will not attend the first Republican primary debate scheduled for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by a Truth Social post Sunday.

Trump’s decision to skip the first debate on Wednesday will leave the first showdown of Republican presidential hopefuls without the far-and-away frontrunner.

“New CBS POLL, just out, has me leading the field by “legendary” numbers.” Trump posted on Truth Social on Sunday. “The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had, with Energy Independence, Strong Borders & Military, Biggest EVER Tax & Regulation Cuts, No Inflation, Strongest Economy in History, & much more.”


Nine other candidates have qualified to be on stage in Milwaukee, according to POLITICO’s analysis: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, businessperson Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former Mississippi Gov. Asa Hutchinson and businessperson Perry Johnson.

All eight of the other candidates have indicated that they would participate in the debate. But without Trump, much of the draw for the first debate may have been drained away.

Trump’s decision to skip out on the first contest will likely leave DeSantis at the center of the stage in Milwaukee. He remains Trump’s chief rival for the nomination, even as his standing in the polls have diminished.

The event gives DeSantis an opportunity to shake out of his slump. He must prove himself as the leading Trump alternative. But without Trump there, it opens him up to being a pincushion for the rest of the field.

Trump’s presence will still loom large over the debate.

“If he’s not there, he’ll still be there,” Fox News host Bret Baier, one of the debate moderators, said in an interview with POLITICO recently. “In other words, he’ll be a part of questioning. There may be sound bites, there may be elements where ‘this is what the leader of the primary says about this issue.’ He’ll be there, even if he’s not there.”

Trump has publicly flirted for months with not participating in the first debate, suggesting he did not want to give his opponents that are trailing him a chance to take a shot.

“You’re leading people by 50 and 60 points, you say why would you be doing a debate? It’s actually not fair,” he said on Fox News in July. “Why would you let somebody that’s at zero or one or two or three be popping you with questions?”

Trump has also said previously he would not sign a “loyalty pledge” from the Republican National Committee, which asks all the primary losers to support the eventual nominee, another requirement laid out by the national party to be on stage on Wednesday.

Christie, who cast himself as the only Republican in the race willing to take on Trump, has repeatedly called the former president a “coward” for even considering skipping the debate.

Trump’s decision does not automatically preclude him from participating in the second one, which will be next month in California.

Trump — along with DeSantis, Ramaswamy, Haley, Scott, Pence and Christie — have already qualified for that debate as well.

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