Election 2020

Trump Backs Out of 'Easy Payday' Bernie Debate

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper shows off his socks -- one with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the other with Donald Trump -- on May 26, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Donald Trump’s refusal today to debate the contender for the Democratic nomination highlights the “reason for that reality” that he Trumps the real-estate mogul in head-to-head matchups.

The idea of what would be an epic ratings face-off lived for about 48 hours after Trump agreed, in principle, to debate Sanders.

Bernie tweeted: “Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary.” That earned the senator 28,000 retweets.

“I am delighted that has agreed to debate. Let’s do it in the biggest stadium possible,” he added Thursday.

Trump said he would debate for a $10 million donation to unspecified women’s health charity causes. A technology investment company told BuzzFeed they’d be happy to put up the money.

But Trump backed out of the idea today, issuing a statement stressing that “based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher.”

“Likewise, the networks want to make a killing on these events and are not proving to be too generous to charitable causes, in this case, women’s health issues,” Trump added. “Therefore, as much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders –  and it would be an easy payday – I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

Sanders issued a statement in response noting that “in recent days, Donald Trump has said he wants to debate, he doesn’t want to debate, he wants to debate and, now, he doesn’t want to debate.”

“Given that there are several television networks prepared to carry this debate and donate funds to charity, I hope that he changes his mind once again and comes on board,” Sanders said.

“There is a reason why in virtually every national and statewide poll I am defeating Donald Trump, sometimes by very large margins and almost always by far larger margins than Secretary Clinton. There is a reason for that reality and the American people should be able to see it up front in a good debate and a clash of ideas.”

Bernie also tweeted, “If you want a campaign that can defeat Trump and defeat him badly, we are that campaign.”

With a mathematical impossibility of overtaking Hillary Clinton in the delegate count in the final states, Sanders is hoping to switch the loyalty of superdelegates to put him over the top at the convention in Philadelphia.

Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said in a statement earlier today that their campaign and Trump’s campaign had received two offers by broadcast television networks to host the debate, and “both offers include a major contribution to charity.”

“We are prepared to accept one of those offers and look forward to working with the Trump campaign to develop a time, place and format that is mutually agreeable. Given that the California primary is on June 7, it is imperative that this all comes together as soon as possible,” Weaver said. “We look forward to a substantive debate that will contrast the very different visions that Sen. Sanders and Mr. Trump have for the future of our country.”