Trump Says He Won't Sign Pledge to Support GOP Nominee, Putting His Debate Attendance in Doubt

(Mark Ralston/Pool via AP)

Donald Trump’s participation in the first Republican debate on August 23 in Milwaukee is now in doubt after the former president stated he would not sign the pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee.


“Why would I sign it?” Trump said in an interview on the conservative cable network Newsmax. “I can name three or four people that I wouldn’t support for president. So right there, there’s a problem.”

There’s also the problem of complying with the Republican National Committee’s rules on debate participation. In addition to meeting fundraising and polling requirements, the rules include the pledge to support the GOP nominee.

“I affirm that if I do not win the 2024 Republican nomination of President of the United States, I will honor the will of the primary voters and support the nominee in order to save our country and beat Joe Biden,” the pledge says. Candidates also must pledge not to run as an independent, write-in candidate or on a third-party ticket.

Trump had already strongly indicated that he wouldn’t participate in the first debate and has even hinted that he would hold some kind of alternate event.

Associated Press:

Trump said he will announce next week whether he’ll participate in the debate, scheduled for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, but his refusal to sign the pledge suggests he plans to make good on his threat to skip it. Trump has repeatedly questioned why he should debate his rivals given his substantial polling lead and has suggested he might hold a competing event instead.

On Wednesday, he pushed back against former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s taunts, telling Newsmax’s Eric Bolling that there’s no upside to participating in a debate when he’s already leading by a wide margin.

“Its not a question of guts. It’s a question of intelligence,” Trump said.


Two things could happen if Trump participates in a debate, and neither of them is good for him. He could make a damaging gaffe or elevate one of his opponents by having them appear almost equal to him in stature.

It’s the right move politically for Trump to avoid the debate. He did it before in Iowa in 2016, and it didn’t hurt his campaign at that time. But Ronald Reagan skipped the Iowa debate in 1980 and lost the caucuses.

That’s not likely to happen here. But Karl Rove is betting that Trump will be in Iowa to participate in the debate.

Wall Street Journal:

So what will Mr. Trump decide? Mr. Trump’s hints that he might not debate could be part of a plan to shock the public and upstage his opponents by suddenly joining. Or he and his team may have firmly decided he has more to lose than gain.

If I were a betting man, I’d say Mr. Trump shows up. He simply must be the center of attention. But no one knows now, probably including Mr. Trump. He may decide at the literal last hour.

Keeping the media and his political opponents off balance is a large part of Trump’s raison d’etre. Should we be surprised if he shows up at the debate? I will be very surprised. He’s got far more to lose than gain by debating lesser Republicans.


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