Former president Donald Trump plans to skip a Republican presidential primary debate in Iowa next week and instead will hold a live town hall on Fox News in Des Moines.
Trump avoided all of the four previous GOP debates as well, drawing criticism from his opponents but little apparent blowback from Republican voters in early nominating states. Polls continue to show the former president maintaining a commanding lead over the rest of the GOP field.
The next GOP debate will be hosted by CNN at Drake University in Des Moines on Jan. 10, just days before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15. Unlike the previous debates, the one in Iowa is not sanctioned by the Republican National Committee. According to CNN, only Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley have met CNN’s qualifications to participate.
Trump, however, will once again be a no-show and instead will sit down with Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum — who happened to moderate the first GOP primary debate last year that Trump also skipped.
On Tuesday, both Haley and DeSantis again criticized Trump for his decision not to participate in another debate.
“With only three candidates qualifying for the CNN debate, it’s time for Donald Trump to show up,” Haley wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “As the debate stage continues to shrink, it’s getting harder for Donald Trump to hide.”
In a statement, DeSantis campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo accused Trump of being scared to get on the stage and appeared to mock his physical abilities.
“If it would make the debate more inviting, we would gladly agree to make it a seated format where the former president would be more comfortable,” Romeo said.
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According to CNN, to qualify for the debate stage, candidates must have received at least 10 percent in three separate polls approved by the network. At least one of those three polls must have surveyed Republicans who were likely to participate in the Iowa caucuses. CNN’s criteria eliminated two of the candidates who participated in the last RNC-sanctioned debate: former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
Ramaswamy also plans to hold a competing event on the night of Jan. 10, apparently in protest of CNN. In a social media post Tuesday morning, Ramaswamy blasted CNN’s “fake Iowa ‘debate’” as one that would be “the most boring in modern history” and touted a live-audience show with right-wing podcaster Tim Pool.
Ramaswamy also railed against a list of “shenanigans” by CNN, noting that several of the network’s journalists had criticized his rhetoric and his baseless claims that the 2020 election was “stolen by Big Tech.” Late last month, Ramaswamy’s campaign halted its TV advertising, saying it was ineffective. Instead, the political newcomer vowed his team was doing things differently and that a “big surprise” would come Jan. 15.
CNN plans to host another GOP primary debate Jan. 21 in Manchester, N.H., just before the New Hampshire primary. That event, which would be the sixth debate of the cycle, also is not sanctioned by the RNC.