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Tipsheet

Is Trump About to Torpedo the 2024 Primary Debates?

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

After the Republican National Committee announced some details for the first two 2024 presidential primary debates, Donald Trump shared a post on Truth Social that sounds like he might not be inclined to participate. 

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Earlier this spring, the RNC announced that the first debate would be held in Milwaukee this August, hosted by Fox News Channel in conjunction with Rumble and Young America's Foundation (YAF).

Then, in remarks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced that the second primary debate would be held at the Reagan Library. 

But on Tuesday, the 45th president-turned 2024 contender chimed in to cast doubt on the debates and his potential participation in them.

"I see that everybody is talking about the Republican Debates, but nobody got my approval, or the approval of the Trump Campaign, before announcing them," the former president said on Truth Social

But a person familiar with the primary debate planning process told Townhall on Tuesday that the RNC has already spoken to every declared candidate and/or their campaign about the process that is now well underway for the 2024 cycle.

"When you're leading by seemingly insurmountable numbers, and you have hostile Networks with angry, TRUMP & MAGA hating anchors asking the 'questions,' why subject yourself to being libeled and abused?" Trump continued on Truth Social. 

"Also, the Second Debate is being held at the Reagan Library, the Chairman of which is, amazingly, Fred Ryan, Publisher of The Washington Post. NO!" the current frontrunner concluded without clarifying to which, if any specific debate or all primary debates, he was saying "no" to. 

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That doesn't sound like someone who eager to step into the lights of a debate stage to square off with his growing roster of declared Republican primary challengers including Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson, Larry Elder, and Vivek Ramaswamy. 

With his "seemingly insurmountable numbers," however, what does he have to lose? Trump handily dispatched with 2016 primary challengers in debates, slapping them with lasting nicknames and providing more than a few viral facial expressions in reaction to other candidates' remarks. 

Skipping debates, however, is not an unprecedented move for Trump — he's done it in the two previous election cycles in which he competed.

During the 2016 Republican primary season, Trump announced he would not participate in a scheduled March debate in Salt Lake City roughly one week before it was set to take place. Ultimately, debate organizers canceled the event after Trump and John Kasich, subsequently, pulled out. Earlier, in January 2016, Trump withdrew from another debate and chose to hold an event of his own instead while the rest of the candidates faced off.  

Then, in the final sprint to the finish in 2020, Trump withdrew from a town hall-style debate against then-candidate Joe Biden after plans were changed and the event was set to take place remotely online, rather than in-person. 

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It's also worth noting that Trump has a habit of threatening to buck the official RNC-sanctioned primary process, as seen when he refused at the first GOP debate of the 2016 cycle in August 2015 to agree to a party loyalty pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee.

Trump came around to the idea and, in September 2015, assented to the pledge, but then rescinded his promise during a CNN town hall event in March 2016, saying "we'll see who it is." Trump, of course, was the eventual nominee so there were no real consequences to his back-and-forth position on the loyalty pledge, but it shows that the longtime businessman still hadn't given up his "Art of the Deal" negotiating tactics. 

Seemingly, 2024 will be no different and no less of a rollercoaster ride. 

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