Former President Donald Trump faced mixed reactions from conservatives after announcing over the weekend that he will not participate in the Republican Party’s primary debates.
Trump cited a CBS News poll on Sunday that showed him at 62%, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at 16%, and everyone else in the low single digits to explain why he did not plan to make a showing at the debates.
He added that he believes that voters already know who he is and concluded by stating: “I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!”
The same poll found that 73% of “likely Republican primary voters” say that Trump “should” show up and debate the competition.
The 77-year-old former president faced criticism from his rivals for opting out of the debates.
“Everybody should debate. Everybody has a responsibility to earn people’s votes,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. “Nobody is entitled to anything in this world, less of all the Republican nomination for president. I’m going to be there. I’m going to be making the case, and this is really a great opportunity because I don’t think very many people over the summer have been following that closely.”
“This is going to be the first time that candidates are going to be able to speak unfiltered to a large number of Americans, and so I’m going to make the case that under Joe Biden, this country is in decline,” he continued. “We need to send Biden back to his basement in Delaware and reverse the country’s decline, and I’m the guy that can do it. We have proven it in the state of Florida, and I won’t let people down as the next president.”
DeSantis on Trump being too afraid to debate: “Everybody has a responsibility to earn people’s votes. NOBODY is entitled to anything in this world, less of all the Republican nomination for president.” pic.twitter.com/RYCNM9Hram
— DeSantis War Room 🐊 (@DeSantisWarRoom) August 21, 2023
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hit Trump late last week over the rumors that he was not going to debate before Trump made his decision official.
“If you qualify for the stage, which Trump has, not showing up is completely disrespectful to the Republican Party, who made you their nominee twice, and to the Republican voters, whose support you’re asking for again,” Christie said Friday.
“By Wednesday night, the front-runner for our party’s nomination is going to be out on bail in four different jurisdictions,” he later added. “When are we going to stop pretending that this is normal?”
Some of Trump’s supporters defended online Trump’s decision to not debate.
Political commentator Jack Posobiec wrote: “Trump should challenge Biden to a debate.”
“Official Announcement: Trump will NOT debate JV Squad!” Fox News contributor Leo Terrell wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
However, he took heat from many conservatives, including from those that have supported him, like political commentator Tomi Lahren.
“Cop out. He has to answer for his handling of Covid, anointing Lord Fauci and pushing vax,” she said. “He had a phenomenal presidency but the last 7 months of it are still up for questioning…”
Cop out. He has to answer for his handling of Covid, anointing Lord Fauci and pushing vax. He had a phenomenal presidency but the last 7 months of it are still up for questioning… https://t.co/5jZnJs9Nco
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) August 20, 2023
Influential Iowa media personality Steve Deace responded: “Is it possible Trump’s lawyers are telling him not to debate? These are live events, not recorded interviews, and with multiple candidates on stage tougher to contain the discussion. Which unfortunately could expand the legal jeopardy he’s facing depending on what he says.”
Fox Business reporter Charles Gasparino called Trump’s decision “interesting and somewhat risky.”
“Gives the entire field a chance to remind voters also how Trump never built the wall, how he kept Fauci until the end, and how he spent like Joe Biden,” Gasparino added.
“Going to be amazing when Biden’s advisors tell him to skip POTUS debates next fall and Trump+followers scream about how he’s scared,” said political commentator Stephen L. Miller, later adding: “Of course he’s not going to a primary debate. He wouldn’t even debate Anthony Fauci.”