With the first 2024 GOP debate field up to eight qualifiers, but former President Donald Trump leaving his participation in doubt, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis eagerly wants to stand toe to toe with the current runaway polling leader.
Trump says let his challengers duke it out, which leaves DeSantis as the No. 1 target on the debate stage, and his campaign says the steady No. 2 in the polls is ready.
“Regardless of whether or not Donald Trump is afraid to debate, Ron DeSantis is looking forward to being on stage in Milwaukee talking about his plans to beat Joe Biden, reverse the decline in our nation, and revive America’s future,” DeSantis campaign Communications Director Andrew Romeo wrote in a statement to Newsmax.
That comes as Trump reiterated his strategy Tuesday to stay out of the first debate Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, because it is hosted by a “hostile” network, moderated by an anti-Trump partisan, and would subject the runaway polling leader to taking arrows from the whole field — and the moderator, as he has infamously done in past presidential debates against Joe Biden in 2020 (only once) and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Romeo noted July polling of likely GOP primary voters in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, agreeing in strong majorities with the statement: “Donald Trump should debate the other challengers for the nomination; skipping the debate makes him look weak.”
- Iowa: 65% agree (46% strongly), 27% disagree.
- New Hampshire: 64% agree (50% strongly), 27% disagree.
- South Carolina: 60% agree (47% strongly), 32% disagree.
- Nevada: 64% agree (48% strongly), 28% disagree.
Still, Trump does not see a polling benefit to taking arrows from mere also-rans.
“If you’re leading by 50 and 60 and 70 points, do you do that, or not?” Trump asked in his stump speech in Windham, New Hampshire, on Tuesday. “Should I?
“All right, you ready? Poll. We’ll take a free poll: Should I do the debate?” he asked to a loud response.
“Maybe we’ll do something else,” Trump said. “See, some people say, ‘yes,’ but they hate to say it, because it doesn’t make sense to do it if you’re leading by so much.
“But they like it for entertainment value, because they’re selfish.”
DeSantis has made numerous appearances with Newsmax calling Trump to the debate stage.
“Nobody is entitled to be nominated; you’ve got to earn it,” DeSantis told “Eric Bolling The Balance” last month. “You’ve got to earn everything in this world.”
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