Trump may avoid some GOP debates, but advisers see facing Biden as key

On July 17, Republican President Donald J. Visited Trump’s private club and home in Bedminster, NJ, where he personally consulted to attend the party’s first concession debate for the presidential nomination.

Republican National Committee Chairman Rona McDaniel on Mr. One of the arguments put forward to Trump was that by avoiding the debate, President Biden would give Mr. Trump an excuse to avoid the debate if they meet again in 2024. According to two people familiar with their conversation.

Mr. Trump seems to have ignored the warning: In recent days he told people close to him that he had decided not to participate in the first debate. Instead, he sat down for a taped interview with former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson. It is expected to be published online on Wednesday. He made the suggestion in a Sunday post on his social media site Truth Social He will not face his primary rivals on stage Through it all, he says he has a wide lead and says, “I won’t do debates!”

However, Ms. McDaniel’s argument was a central focus of the Trump campaign, which Mr. Looking forward to a potential rematch with Biden: getting both of them on stage. Mr. Mr. Trump He has said publicly many times that he wants to debate Biden, and Mr. Mr. Trump’s advisers have called for a face-to-face confrontation with the current president. considered critical to Trump’s chances of victory.

Considering the contours of a general election debate is unusually early, the Iowa caucuses are still months away, and Mr. Not a single vote was cast in a primary race so far defined by Trump’s four criminal convictions. But both parties are heading in the direction of revisiting the same candidates they had in 2020 — Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump – Some thought has already gone into possible matches, at least on Trump’s part.

Mr. Mr. Trump and his advisers. A strong desire to see Biden debate, Mr. Matches. Every presidential race since 1976 has had at least two televised debates, and the CPD, run by members of both parties, has overseen the process for every election since 1988.

Republicans sought to end the streak after 2020. But Mr. Trump, Mr. CPD is willing to return to the debate if it’s the only way to ensure a debate against Biden, people familiar with the matter said.

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A Republican strategist familiar with the Trump team’s thinking, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to release private conversations, said bluntly: “The caucus does not control the candidate’s debate strategy in the general election.”

But the party is trying to do that. The “Beat Biden Pledge” the RNC requires candidates to sign to participate in primary debates agrees to participate only in RNC-sanctioned general election debates. Since he did not agree to attend the primary debate, Mr. Trump has yet to sign it.

The Republican strategist said the ultimate goal is “as many debates between Donald Trump and Joe Biden as possible,” and that the Trump campaign will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.

A senior Biden official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said there had been no senior-level staff meetings about the discussions, nor any discussions with the president.

But Mr. Those in Biden’s orbit had their own frustrations with the CPD in 2020, particularly its handling of Covid protocols. A few days before participating in the first debate, Mr. The late revelation that Trump had at least once tested positive for the virus deepened their concern.

A Trump spokeswoman and an RNC spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

Starting in 2021, the RNC is pressing CPD to make changes to the way the debates are conducted. And, over the past year, it has been actively seeking a non-CPD debate host.

But debates are negotiated between candidates’ campaigns and the commission, meaning the decision to participate ultimately rests with the candidate, and the RNC can’t force his hand.

In the past, candidates have skipped primary debates. Like other incumbents before Gerald Ford, Mr. But with the exception of Jimmy Carter, there is little precedent in modern history for avoiding current presidential general election debates.

According to the commission, there has been no discussion between CPD and any campaign so far.

“CPD begins discussions with campaigns only after the nominating process is complete,” said Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., CPD co-chair and former chairman of the RNC. said in a statement.

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The committee is expected to reveal the venues, dates and criteria for the general election debates in October. Typically, the CPD holds three sanctioned debates after both candidates are elected at party conventions.

Problems with the commission ahead of 2020, its monopoly on general election debates, have frustrated candidates of both parties for years. This is especially true for Republicans, since the 2012 presidential cycle, one of CNN’s moderators, Candy Crowley, fact-checked Republican candidate Mitt Romney in real time during a debate with the current president, Barack Obama.

In 2020, Mr. Then-Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who served as the moderator for Trump’s first CPD debate, said Mr. When CPD announced that the second debate would be virtual, the Trump team was apoplectic, and Mr. Trump announced that he would not participate. Mr. Biden followed suit.

In the first debate on September 29, 2020, Mr. The decision to hold a second debate was almost made after Trump appeared to be under the weather and tested positive for Covid on Twitter within 72 hours.

Since then, Mr. Trump’s former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has released a memoir about his tenure in which he says Mr Trump had a positive Covid test three days before the debate, followed by a negative one. Mr. When his team learned that Trump was ill, Mr. The assertion also raised questions about whether it was kept from CPD to keep Trump from canceling his appearance.

In addition, when several members of the Trump family, except for first lady Melania Trump, removed the masks required to be worn by visitors, Mr. Biden’s team was outraged — and later filed a complaint with CPD. In the front row for that first match.

A senior Biden official said the Biden team felt a lot was at stake at the time, and the president’s campaign could push for its own specific rules. Recently, CNN hosted a New Hampshire primary town hall-style event where Mr. With Trump, holding the debate without a live audience is a possibility that could be raised. The former president fed off laughter and applause from a cheering audience as he tried to dominate his 70 minutes of prime time.

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An institutionalist who usually does not like to break with tradition, Mr. The official did not say whether Biden would prefer to avoid the debate.

Mr. A spokesman for Biden declined to comment.

Mr. As Trump chose to avoid at least one primary showdown, Mr. The possibility that Biden would not debate Mr. The sense that Trump could open up has been underscored in recent days by Republicans with rival campaigns.

The New York Times reported on Friday that Mr. Christina Pushaw, an aide to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, highlighted a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, after Trump told aides he would not attend next week’s event. Mr. Trump’s adviser Jason Miller, Mr. He wrote about Biden in August 2020: “If Joe Biden is too afraid to debate, he’s too afraid to run the country.”

Mr. Trump and his advisers believe that discussing his primary rivals at this point does little for him politically, given how far he is in the primary polls. However, national polls show him as Mr. They show that he will have a tough race against Mr. Biden, and aides say that Mr.

David Axelrod, who was a top adviser to former President Barack Obama during both of his presidential campaigns, said that although both camps adopted the debate criteria, Mr. Mr. Trump’s refusal to follow the rules. He said Biden’s team has a challenge.

“The fact that Trump is completely irresponsible and turns every event into a circus and a platform to spread misinformation is the basis for saying it’s worthless,” Mr. Axelrod said.

Mr. said that discussions could strengthen him. He explained that Trump’s confidence could be misguided, pointing to a September 29, 2020 debate in which Mr.

“He doesn’t need to help himself,” said Mr. Axelrod said. “That first debate hurt so much last time.”

But Mr. Axelrod, Mr. To avoid Trump’s debates, Mr. Biden said the idea that it could be a reason is a “fair” question, noting that “even if you feel in a close race you can get away with it.” — and whether the public will accept it is another question.

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