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Without Trump, Are GOP Primary Debates Irrelevant?

Posted on Tuesday, July 25, 2023
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by Aaron Flanigan
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180 Comments

AMAC Exclusive – By Aaron Flanigan

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With just six months to go until the first vote of the Republican primaries, frontrunner Donald Trump’s potential absence from the debate stage this summer might be the biggest story of the race so far – and could be a fatal blow to the rest of the GOP field.

In recent years, Republican primary debates have led to significant polling shifts that ultimately went a long way toward deciding the nominee. In the 2012 cycle, for instance, eventual nominee Mitt Romney saw a four-point surge following a solid performance at an early debate in June of 2011. Texas Governor Rick Perry, meanwhile – who surged to a 12-point lead following his announcement in August of 2011 – collapsed in the polls following several poor debate performances.

In 2016, Donald Trump ascended to the top of the polls and maintained his status as the GOP frontrunner in large part thanks to his dominance during the Republican debates, during which he famously launched a series of blistering attacks against frontrunner and establishment favorite Jeb Bush. As even Democrat presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., recently commented, Trump is “probably the most successful debater in this country” since Abraham Lincoln.

Why, then, some voters may ask, would Trump forego the same forum that helped propel him to the White House in 2016?

For starters, there is the fact that, after four years in the White House, voters already know what they are getting with Trump. Americans have seen Trump deliver on his promises to cut taxes, nominate originalist judges, fight back against Democrat extremism, and defend traditional conservative values as president – something every other contender can only claim that they would do, as opposed to actually having done it.

Moreover, though some political pundits have been critical of Trump’s flirtation with sitting out the debates, the on-the-ground political reality for the former president is markedly different now than it was eight years ago—and his decision to not take the debate stage is based in shrewd political calculus.

In late July 2015, Trump was polling at roughly 15 percent, virtually tied with candidates like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. He then used the debates to secure his eventual polling lead. But now, as the runaway frontrunner polling close to 60 percent with a nearly 40-point lead over his nearest opponent, Trump has very little incentive to show up. To participate in the debates as the clear frontrunner would supercharge the debate’s television ratings, which in turn would needlessly grant political legitimacy to his competitors, most of whom are already struggling to find political oxygen.

Furthermore, Fox News—which is hosting the first debate—has a long history of actively working against Trump and his political interests. In previous debates hosted by Fox, moderators have taken it upon themselves to spar with Trump rather than orchestrating a substantive debate focused on the issues.

Earlier this year, a Fox co-host also said that Trump poses a “danger to America.” Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch has even reportedly been working behind the scenes to undermine Trump’s campaign.

In other words, any debate hosted by Fox is likely to be more of a coordinated political hit job on Trump than an honest, neutral discussion on the important issues facing the conservative movement.

As Trump himself has acknowledged, Fox, the corporate media, and other GOP candidates all desperately need Trump’s presence on the debate stage for the sake of their own relevance. “We have a lead of 50 and 60 points in some cases… You’re leading people by 50 and 60 points, you say why would you be doing a debate?” Trump said when asked about his participation in the upcoming debate. “It’s actually not fair. Why would you let somebody that’s at zero or one or two or three be popping you with questions?”

If Trump does ultimately follow through with his threats to abstain from participating in debates, the GOP primaries could very well enter a months long standstill that prevents other candidates from chipping away at Trump’s lead. They will likely be forced, then, to rely on interviews, speeches, and perhaps even traditionally untapped political channels as a way to boost their polling numbers.

Whether or not other contenders will have any room to improve their own standings in a Trump-free debate cycle, however, remains to be seen.

Aaron Flanigan is the pen name of a writer in Washington, D.C.

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HONEY
HONEY
8 months ago

It will be fascinating to watch every Republican running tell us all they would accomplish. They would all sound like Trump so why not vote for the real deal? To me they are all opportunists hoping trump will be arrested and they will be able to take his place. But it must be Trump in 2024.

Gary
Gary
8 months ago

Everyone but everyone KNOWS Trump will be the nominee of the GOP . Without Trump’s presence , the “Debate” will be meaningless . Of course the challangers want Trump there. They’re hoping for a Trump trip-up . Or, they could have 2028 in mind . Without Trump , the ratings will be very low .
The only thing useful about the ‘debate’ will be the possibility of one of the challangers making him/her self as a possible VP choice for Trump .
I don’t think Trump’s legal problems with the maniac DEMOCRAT polawticians , will hurt him at all . To the contrary , those crazy DEMOCRAT polawticians are reminding us and re-enforcing us why Trump is vital to America . Those polawticians are actually hardening up Trump’s support . They are demonstrating to us what they’d do with us too . I thank God and Sen. McConnel that Garland did not get onto the Court . After he became AG , i began to discover just what kind of a man he was . He’s nutier than a fruitcake . And his assigned hit-man , Jack Smith is also a nut .
The crazy fight that those DEMOCRAT polawticians are waging against trump is demonstrating to us all that they know Trump will win the General Election . And they also know that this coming elections will be less rigged than 2019 . DEMOCRATs simply cannot win an honest election .

Morbious
Morbious
8 months ago

To all of those who imagine a return of civility under the steady guidance of a president Desantis, Scott or Pence, please go back twenty years into the memory banks. Go back to the savagery the left inflicted on bush. My point is that the leftist establishment will rain hell on ANY R president. They got rid of Nixon after a 49 state landslide, crippled Ford and then attacked Reagan who was the only R potus since Ike to fend them off with his unique skill set. They derailed Bush 1 with endless lies about 1992 being a severe recession. They drove his sons approval into the 20s by doing their best to help lose the iraq war. Btw, every R potus mentioned other than Reagan was a centrist. I realize many are offended by Trumps personality and antics but the only question when the country is at stake is who can stand the heat sure to come. The others might but Trump has shown he never wilts or shrinks under fire. That proven courage is the decisive factor.

Rik
Rik
8 months ago

What would he have to gain by debating? He has a very successful 1st term record so we already know what we can expect from him! And the Democratic Communists fear him the most and would have to cheat even more to defeat him and that’s more difficult with what Jack*ss Joe has already done!

Last edited 8 months ago by Grace Rowan
Susabella
Susabella
8 months ago

Absolutely not. We all know what Trump is about and what he has to say. This is a chance to get a better look at other candidates.

Michelin
Michelin
8 months ago

Only if Newsmax or Real America’s Voice commentators host the debate.

John Bass
John Bass
8 months ago

The only answer or candidate for me is Trump in 2024. I want to see him come back, vindicate himself and finish what he started.
I’d also like to see Trump’s DOJ put a lot of the Democratic traitors behind bars. This country won’t be healed until most of the wrongs have been righted and we put the brakes on this Socialist train wreck the Democrats keep pushing.
God save the USA.

Lieutenant Beale
Lieutenant Beale
8 months ago

Love him or hate him, Trump is the only one with the stones to stand up to the Democrats. We don’t need another weak kneed “go along to get along” do nothing Republican at the helm.

Corbin L Douthitt
Corbin L Douthitt
8 months ago

IMHO- in general, GOP leadership does NOT like Trump. The Never Trumpers- just cannot handle it- they would rather LOSE seats, and power to Democrats, thus HELP destroy the country- than support Trump. the RNC IS Never Trumpers. Heck- The RNC failed to help candidates in the last election that HAD a chance to win. Between the Old Guard (liberal Repubs) and Never Trumpers- Trump only has about 50% of the Republicans, at best..I am talking about those IN the GOP and elected GOP— not voters. the OG and NT are only about 25% of the GOP voters. So- being Trump and skipping the GOP debates can make sense as it is a waste of time- BUT it likely will sour a lot of people that expect him to BE a candidate that is electable.

CLIFFORD F GERACI
CLIFFORD F GERACI
8 months ago

The establishment hates a disrupter…..especially one who has shown by action that he can do it better. Both RINO and Democrats hate Trump because he has shown them both up. Here’s someone not even in the political arena jumping in, taking control and doing a damn good job of running things….and they hate him for it.

Ann S
Ann S
8 months ago

There shouldn’t be a debate at all. This was all set up to put Trump in a bad light.
Trump shouldn’t participate in a debate set up by MSM. Be it Fox or CNN. Biased questions will be posed. No debates

LauraC
LauraC
8 months ago

Serves FOX right to lose the most important candidate after they let that i^iot Chris Wallace run one. Why should Trump put himself in that position when he’s so obviously the front runner? Let some of the also rans thrash each other for a change and let us see what they stand for without the obvious glaring superiority of a candidate who has already proven what he can do. Who watches FOX anymore, anyway? Why should a star like DJ Trump go on a fading relic like FOX?

HunterB
HunterB
8 months ago

It won’t matter what the GOP does. The Demorats will continue to cheat like they did in 2020 and steal the presidential election and like all the local elections since then.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
8 months ago

Damn RNC blocks true debates

SusanP
SusanP
8 months ago

If Trump does not participate in the debates, then I will NOT be watching any of the debates. Why waste my time listening to the idiots and ne’er-do-wells I will not vote for under any circumstance. For instance, Niki Haley does not qualify as a “natural born citizen”, at least as defined by de Vattel, and therefore is unqualified. Christie is an idiot and the rest have proven to be against the best interest of We the People. My vote is for Trump, even if I have to write his name in on the ballot! The demoncrats can do all they want to bury Trump under their unlawful, unconstitutional indictments, but that will not stop me from voting my conscience!

Frank
Frank
8 months ago

Totally Irrelevant. I do like DeSantis, but it’s not his time. With the shape our country is in and everything that is going on President Donald Trump is the ONLY ONE that has the Knowledge and Brass to change it back to where he had it. I refuse to sit and listen to Rhino Pence and the others stand there and lie.

Joe from Las Vegas Nevada
Joe from Las Vegas Nevada
8 months ago

Trump does not need to debate, instead he should hold a rally on that night.

Myrna
Myrna
8 months ago

We saw the sponsors of debates determine the topics and set up the results.
I don’t think we need debates. Especially we don’t need political arrangers setting requirements.
Individual events can be revealing.
When the election comes, each of us will decide – wisely I hope.

Sean Rickman
Sean Rickman
8 months ago

When PRESIDENT TRUMP was President,AMERICA was far better off than we are today.I do not believe that there wouid not be the problems in the world that we have today with”wimpy joey”in partial charge of AMERICA.

Big LT
Big LT
8 months ago

After the last debate that FOX supposedly moderated with Wallace, I don’t blame Trump one bit to refuse to attend. McDaniel should be fired for this blunder.

Chuck
Chuck
8 months ago

The Title should have read: “With Trump the debates are irrelevant”. The debates are irrelevant with Trump running because the debates will have no effect on Trump easily garnering the GOP nomination. Barring any dirty tricks, of course, from either the democratic or GOP leadership.

gin
gin
8 months ago

Trump certainly ran the country well. Unfortunately he kills relationships quickly with people who could be of great assistance. The US and the world are in such bad shape morally and against others physically, that no human can turn or ever has turned things around. The only one who can do it is God. The bible says we are to love and obey God. He loves everyone, but will save only the ones who accept His Son, Christ Jesus as Savior. The end of satan’s rule, (the bible says he rules the world, only because God allows it since people don’t want God’s rules) will come soon with the 7 year tribulation. Two thousand year old predictions of scorching heat in Revelation 16:9, human behavior in second Timothy 3:1-5, and more are coming true quickly. As Billy Graham said, “Now is the hour of decision”.

Tom
Tom
8 months ago

Just the opposite conclusion! About 1/2 of Americans polled want ANYBODY BUT Biden and ANYBODY BUT Trump. Americans are sick of and don’t like or trust EITHER Party. They are begging for major change at all levels of Government and my huncgh is, the’ll get it!

jim mcdowell
jim mcdowell
8 months ago

With a 30 point lead in the primary, Trump has everything to lose and nothing to gain by participating in any primary debate. I wouldn’t if I were him.

Marc Ziegler
Marc Ziegler
8 months ago

Primaries can be a good thing and a bad thing for any future election. The good thing is that we the people can hear and see what any future candidate stands for and promotes; this is important to differentiate between each candidate’s political views. The bad thing about a primary is it can muddy the water so to speak, like what’s happening this time in the current Republican primary. In this case, we have a previously elected President, Donald J. Trump, running again for a second term. In any other Presidential Election, a current President would automatically be the party’s nominee for a second term. Trump’s first second term was stolen from him in 2020, making it much more important for the Republican Party to stand up for him, which in this case they are not!!!
I consider the current field of republican candidates, other than Trump, nothing more than “Trump Want a Bee’s”, trying to be Trump 2.0. These Trump “Want a Bee’s”, other than a few, are really saying the same things that Trump has said all along, America First, Strong Military, God and Country, but without Trump, it is just allot of hot air! President Trump has a track record that none of the” Want a Bee’s” can match. Period! Maybe someday, after Trump has Made America Great Again, these Republicans can make their case and continue what Trump started. Let’s stop fighting among ourselves and start fighting to remove crocked Biden! Go Trump!

Jeri
Jeri
8 months ago

No. They are relevant. We need to hear their thoughts not fighting with Trump.

Marvin
Marvin
8 months ago

Trump should not join the debates, as you said, he would only hurl those competitors to be more relevant than they are already… Debating between them would only be an exercise in the debating process… The fore-runner is already chosen..!

Singleshot
Singleshot
8 months ago

Yes, they’ll be irrelevant. Like anything three-time loser Ronna McDaniel organizes with the RNC.

Wayne
Wayne
8 months ago

Trump doesn’t need to debate, we know what he’s already done and will do!!

Steven Ruzek
Steven Ruzek
8 months ago

The advantage of the debates is that other candidates with differing communication styles can help independents better understand conservative positions. Candidates who use their time to bash President Trump may as well hang up their skates before blowing other people’s campaign contributions and wasting their time.

Tom is CC
Tom is CC
8 months ago

If Trump really wants to put down some of these wannabe candidates, all he has to do is run a live event opposite the debates.

Robin W Boyd
Robin W Boyd
8 months ago

Debates without Trump aren’t irrelevant, they just aren’t as important. It would be good to know what the other candidates have to say in case Trump decides to choose one for his V.P.

teresa
teresa
8 months ago

There is only one man for the job – that is President Donald Trump. He should finish the good work he started, Trump was chipped out of his second term bc of biden and the dums cheating – any haters on here would never agree bc they have no common sense!!!

Chris
Chris
8 months ago

President Trump 2024.. NO Substitute GOP Primary Debates are Irrelevant

Michael
Michael
8 months ago

It is my intention to vote for Donald Trump. That said, I would be against hearing what the others have to say. I’m fairly certain that they’ll just repeat President Trumps talking points.

Newday
Newday
8 months ago

Trump should do the debates but he has to stick to his accomplishments and not put down the other candidates and give them silly nicknames. Trump has already proven what he can accomplish so he should talk like a President that has experience and confidence.

caseyp
caseyp
8 months ago

I do not think the debates are irrelevant without President Trump. We know where he’s coming from and what he can do. I want to hear when the other candidates have to offer.

Word of Truth
Word of Truth
8 months ago

I think it’s important for debates to happen whether Trump attends or not. It will provide exposure for the next generation of candidates. In the event that Trump drops out voters will me familiar with other choices.

Kreu
Kreu
8 months ago

Presidential “debates” are a waste of time. No one follows the rules of debate, and it’s all become a show of who can over talk or even shout over the other, or “win” with quips and snippets, and the so called moderators have little to no control, other than their own agenda, further rendering the debate obsolete. In todays world we can know everything we need to know about a candidate through their website, platform, track record and actual actions and accomplishments.

Sarah
Sarah
8 months ago

Really wish all so-called debates are banished .

Marvin
Marvin
8 months ago

The little known fact is this: Each candidate collects funds for his campaign… After the “chosen” one is attained, they each can keep, tax free the funds that are not spent on their campaign… Each one of them knew this from the beginning and they are merely milking the “suckers” that donate to them…

Peter
Peter
8 months ago

I am a fan of Trump’s ability to get things rolling in the right direction, however, I do not believe he is the best choice for America moving forward. He is toxic and, in my opinion, will not win as long as the courts allow States to ignore their State’s Constitution and “modify” election rules to benefit cheaters and the left. Election day in virtually every country in the world that holds them means election DAY, not week or month or after the polls officially close. Add to that fact the MSM, the Democrat Party, and their supporters will continue to harass and find any excuse the court allows to convict him of a crime no matter how ridiculous. All of this while the Biden and Clinton crime families enjoy 100% immunity.
Our country is in BIG trouble financially and is being lead down a no win and radical climate change “go green” and spend till we’re broke Democrat agenda that will only exacerbate the problems. In all fairness more than 50% of federally elected Republicans are on board with the destruction of Trump AND subsequently, OUR country all for the same reason; power and control of, we, the people.

Arnold DeAnda
Arnold DeAnda
8 months ago

They are nothing but distraction and wonder why they are running in the first place. We will vote Pre Trump even if he is incarcerated.

Charlotte
Charlotte
8 months ago

Trump and Biden will be the nominees barring one of them dying. He would dominate the pack so without him, people will be able to learn more about the other Republicans. It is a good “in case of” exercise.

Sydney
Sydney
8 months ago

It’s ridiculous; many of these characters are ‘ running’ when it is obvious he/she would not be the candidate. It’s a resume enhancement ( not as far as I am concerned) or a bid for a place in the next Republican administration. STOP IT! Get a real job in the private sector or start or grow a business. Too many attention seekers and narcissists.

Elaine
Elaine
8 months ago

We are presuming that Trump will automatically get the GOP nomination, BUT life and health is not guaranteed to any one of us. We need to know what the other candidates have to offer the voters (a just in case). The more who run will present some good (and some not so good) ideas of where we go next. The world is not as it was and there is a lot of rebuilding relationships with our allies and also to let our enemies know that we are not the past leadership of being unaware of what our enemies have been doing these past years.
God help us if the we lose this election to the puppet Biden Administration!

Garyk
Garyk
8 months ago

The Republican debates without President Trump are only important if one of the others can make the case as his running mate.
Egos aside , Governor DeSantis , Tim Scott or Rami would look to be strong #2’s with the option to run as #1 in 2028.
Hopefully that’s what we’ll see.

Dick Yowell
Dick Yowell
8 months ago

Trump (if he is a candidate at all) is a winner in the primaries. But he’s a loser in the general election. Just too many people out there who, because of his own poor decorum and judgment, hate his guts and would vote for a dog first.

Marti Belcher
Marti Belcher
8 months ago

Just so America knows that Trump won’t save America. God will save America. America needs to put God first.

Chris
Chris
8 months ago

I want to know why DeSantis gave a speech to the World Economic Forum!
He gave them an earful. But I want to know Why he was invited in the first place. Does not make sense that they would invite a conservative just to get a tongue lashing? So why?? What’s going on?

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