Republican frontrunner Donald Trump said he would announce next week whether he would attend the first GOP presidential debate, but insisted he would not sign a required pledge to support the party’s nominee.
(Bloomberg) — Republican frontrunner Donald Trump said he would announce next week whether he would attend the first GOP presidential debate, but insisted he would not sign a required pledge to support the party’s nominee.
“I have a problem with the debate for another reason. I wouldn’t sign the pledge,” Trump told Newsmax’s Eric Bolling in an interview broadcast on Wednesday night.
“I can name three or four people that I wouldn’t support for president,” he said, but then declining to name them. “So right there that’s a problem.”
The former president is one of eight candidates who meet the Republican National Committee’s donor and polling criteria for the first debate to be held on Aug. 23 in Milwaukee. Trump hit the 40,000 donor threshold and has registered at least 1% in a series of polls.
Yet to be allowed onto the stage, the RNC requires all candidates to sign a pledge that they would support the party’s eventual nominee and not run as a third-party candidate — a demand Trump has rejected.
Trump, who enjoys a wide lead over the rest of the GOP primary field, has repeatedly threatened to boycott the debate, arguing that appearing on stage with his lower-polling rivals would only benefit them.
In the Newsmax interview, Trump initially said he had already decided and would share that decision next week. But later he suggested he still had to make a decision, adding “I haven’t totally ruled it out.”
“What’s the upside? Am I going to go up 1 point,” Trump added.
“People like Asa Hutchinson, who’s polling at zero percent. He’s going to ask me nasty questions?” Trump said of the former Arkansas governor, a 2024 contender. “Why would you do that when you’re leading by so much?”
A New York Times/Siena College poll released last week showed Trump with a 37 percentage point lead over his nearest challenger, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Appearing on stage with Trump at the debate would be a critical moment for DeSantis, who is in the midst of a campaign reset. He replaced his campaign manager earlier this week, the latest shake-up for an operation that burned through cash in the last quarter worrying donors as it slid in the polls.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who was polling at 2% in the New York Times/Siena College poll, has already signed the pledge, making him the first Republican candidate to do so. DeSantis’s campaign on Wednesday said on X, the social media platform formerly called Twitter, that the Florida governor also signed the pledge.
Read more: Trump Plans Rival Events to Deny GOP Challengers the Spotlight
Trump, thanks to his commanding edge in the polls, is planning a series of counter-programming events to deny his Republican opponents the exposure they need to chip away at his frontrunner status. Allies have presented options for rival events to the debate, as first reported by Bloomberg News.
The former president has sought to present himself as the inevitable GOP nominee, bragging about his poll numbers and skipping events where his Republican rivals receive equal billing.
His mounting legal woes have helped solidify his lead, as Republicans rallied behind him and donations spiked. The criminal charges, however, threaten to take a toll on his campaign as financial disclosures show Trump burning through cash to pay for lawyers.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, US Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum have also met the donor and polling thresholds for the debate.
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