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‘Not be doing the debates’, Donald Trump will skip primary GOP debates, so it will be DeSantis vs Vivek Ramaswamy

Donald Trump said on Sunday that he will skip primary debates against other Republican presidential candidates, citing a new poll showing him with a wide lead over his rivals for the GOP nomination.

Former US president Donald Trump delivers remarks on education as he holds a campaign rally with supporters, in Davenport, Iowa, US on March 13. (REUTERS)

The post on Trump’s Truth Social platform came days before the party’s first presidential debate in Milwaukee and ended weeks of speculation over whether he would take part. His announcement signals that he’s already turning his attention to a possible matchup against President Joe Biden in the general election.

Trump pointed to a CBS News survey published Sunday, saying it “has me leading the field by ‘legendary’ numbers.” He went on to deride his opponents, notably Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, for trailing in the polls and touted his presidential achievements, before adding in all-caps that he “will therefore not be doing the debates!”

In his Truth Social post, Trump didn’t say what he would be doing at the time of the debate, scheduled for 9 p.m. Eastern time on Aug. 23. The former president is expected to feature in an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that may overlap with the event, though a spokesperson said Friday that plans hadn’t been finalized.

An interview with Carlson, who exited Fox News earlier this year, would be a snub to the network, which is hosting Wednesday’s debate. Trump has criticized the network in recent days for its coverage of his campaign.

Trump has skipped several events in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire that are considered important to wooing party activists and giving candidates equal billing. He wasn’t invited to an event in Atlanta this weekend hosted by radio host Erick Erickson that drew six other candidates including DeSantis.

While Trump won’t be on the debate stage Wednesday, he intends to have allies present in the audience in Milwaukee. His team has pressed several high-profile supporters to attend on his behalf, Representative Byron Donalds said in an interview.

Trump’s decision to avoid the primary debates increases pressure on his GOP rivals to alter their campaign strategies. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in particular, has made targeting Trump a centerpiece of his White House bid and had relished the prospect of debating him.

“He’s a coward,” Christie told reporters in Atlanta on Saturday, as it appeared increasingly likely that Trump wouldn’t appear. “Do you not owe it to the voters to stand up there and allow them to compare you to the rest of the people running?”

While Trump has taken umbrage with the idea of sharing a stage with unfriendly candidates polling in the single digits, he has also said he wouldn’t sign a pledge from the RNC that is a requirement to qualify for the debates. The “Beat Biden” pledge instructs candidates to respect the Republican nominee and not run as a third party candidate.

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