The frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, former President Donald Trump, has made the decision to forego the upcoming May GOP primary debate. Instead, he has opted to participate in a Fox News town hall event scheduled to run concurrently. This town hall, chaired by Fox News hosts Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier, is slated to take place in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 10 at 9:00 p.m. ET. Coincidentally, this timing aligns with the CNN debate happening in the same city just days before the Iowa caucuses.
Trump’s choice to bypass the debate echoes a strategy he employed during the 2016 presidential campaign, a move that ruffled feathers within the Republican Party. Despite his absence from previous debates, Trump has managed to maintain a substantial lead in the polls.
The former president had already signaled his intention to abstain from the first GOP debate of the primary season back in August, citing his commanding lead in the polls over other Republican contenders. During this time, he underscored the accomplishments of his presidency, which included landmark achievements like tax and regulation reductions, achieving energy independence, securing borders, bolstering the military, and fostering a robust economy.
“People recognize my track record and the accomplishments of my presidency, including achieving energy independence, securing our borders and military, implementing historic tax and regulation cuts, maintaining low inflation, and fostering the strongest economy in history, among other achievements,” Trump emphasized.
As per the network’s assessment, only three candidates—Trump, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis—have met the criteria to participate in the debate. With the primaries and caucuses drawing nearer, DeSantis and Haley are now in a neck-and-neck race in Iowa and New Hampshire polls.
With just three eligible contenders, Haley criticized Trump’s decision to skip the debate, asserting that it’s time for him to participate. DeSantis also voiced disapproval of Trump’s absence from previous debates, expressing his belief that candidates should engage with Iowans, address their questions, and work to secure their support.
Due to low polling numbers, Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy have failed to meet the requirements to grace the stage. Consequently, the CNN debate is expected to feature the smallest platform of the 2024 primary cycle.
CNN is also scheduled to host a debate in New Hampshire on January 21, just two days before the state’s primary. Trump’s campaign has already indicated that he intends to skip that debate as well, citing the former president’s willingness to engage in a debate with a Republican opponent only “if it’s very close.”