WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday said he would skip the upcoming Republican primary debates, citing his large lead in opinion polls as evidence that he was already well-known and liked by voters ahead of the 2024 election.
Trump has for months suggested he would likely pass on Wednesday night’s debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, arguing that it did not make sense to give his Republican rivals a chance to attack him given his sizeable lead in national polls.
On Sunday, a CBS poll showed he was the preferred candidate for 62% of Republican voters, with his closest rival Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at 16%. All other candidates in the primary race had less than 10% support.
“The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had,” Trump said on his social media app, Truth Social. “I will therefore not be doing the debates.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a question asking if the former president meant he won’t be taking part in any of the Republican debates.
The New York Times reported that Trump sat for a taped interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that was expected to be posted online on Wednesday. It was not yet clear where the interview with Carlson will be posted.
Trump’s absence from this week’s debate could mean DeSantis will become the focus of attacks from other candidates looking to position themselves as the primary alternative to the former president. The winner of the Republican nominating fight will take on Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 2024 election.
DeSantis campaign spokesperson Andrew Romeo said the Florida governor was looking forward to being in Milwaukee to share his vision for a possible presidency.
“No one is entitled to this nomination, including Donald Trump. You have to show up and earn it,” Romeo said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
In the most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll released this month, Trump held 47% of the Republican vote nationally, with DeSantis dropping six percentage points from July down to just 13%. None of the other candidates due to attend the debate have broken out of single digits.
Trump has a Friday deadline to voluntarily surrender in Fulton County, Georgia, after being charged last week in a fourth criminal indictment, for an alleged scheme intended to reverse his 2020 election loss to Biden.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Additional reporting by Nathan Layne and James Oliphant; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Diane Craft)