Trump Leans Toward Skipping First GOP Primary Debate, Weighs Holding Counter Event: REPORT

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Mary Lou Masters Contributor
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Former President Donald Trump is leaning toward skipping the first presidential debate in August and holding a countering event instead, NBC News reported Wednesday.

Trump has reportedly been toying with not participating in the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) first two GOP primary debates due to his massive lead in the polls and recent spats with Fox News, the outlet broadcasting the August debate, according to NBC News. Several Trump advisers told NBC News that while the former president is leaning toward skipping the first debate, he hasn’t made a final decision but is exploring options for a competing event.

“But if he does not debate, I doubt he’s staying home,” an adviser told NBC News. (RELATED: ‘He’s Afraid’: 2024 GOP Contenders Respond To Reports That Trump Might Skip Debates)

During the 2016 Republican primaries, Trump skipped the last debate ahead of the Iowa caucuses and held a fundraising event for veterans, instead, according to NBC News.

The advisers have been encouraging Trump to participate in the debates, but acknowledged that the ultimate decision will come solely from the former president, according to NBC News. Trump has reportedly sought the opinions of several individuals, including an RNC official.

“He shops opinions with everyone and will get, like, 100 different opinions,” an adviser told NBC News. “He wants to know what everyone thinks but will ultimately do what he wants to do. In general, he is asking everyone, from the bellman to [RNC Chair] Ronna McDaniel.”

Another source encouraging Trump to participate in the debate believes the former president won’t take the stage unless there’s a significant change in the polls, according to NBC News. The Real Clear Politics (RCP) average for a 2024 national Republican primary, based on polls conducted between June 5 and June 20, indicates Trump is leading a crowded field of candidates by roughly 30 points.

Some of Trump’s 2024 challengers have criticized the former president for possibly skipping the debates, with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie arguing “he’s afraid” and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson claiming Trump is playing the “victim card.”

The first RNC debate will be held on August 23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and is partnered with Fox News, Young America’s Foundation and the streaming app Rumble. Though a date for the second debate has yet to be set, it will be held at the Reagan Library in California.

Christie, Hutchinson and former Texas Rep. Will Hurd have taken issue with the RNC’s qualifications for the debate, which include a loyalty pledge to support the eventual nominee, as well as donor and polling requirements.

Hutchinson has frequently criticized the RNC’s loyalty pledge for potentially requiring him to support a convicted felon if Trump becomes the nominee, and asked the committee to consider amending their rules. Christie characterized the pledge as being a “useless idea,” though he has said he’ll do what’s necessary to make the debate stage. Hurd, the latest presidential candidate to jump in the race, said he will not sign the loyalty pledge to avoid supporting the former president.

Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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