Trump may have been notably absent from the GOP debate stage, but there is one debate he looks forward to – the chance to take on President Joe Biden.
As Trump supporters recall, during the first GOP debate in August, Trump aired an hourlong pre-recorded interview with Tucker Carlson. In the second GOP debate in September, he organized a campaign rally near an auto manufacturing plant in Clinton Township, Michigan, trying to win over workers during the United Auto Workers strike.
During the third debate, Trump held a rally at a stadium only ten miles from Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, the venue selected for the event. The fourth and last debate in 2023 saw Trump skipping again, choosing to hold a campaign fundraiser instead.
And for the last Republican debate of 2023, Trump was again notably absent, this time participating in a Fox News town hall instead of appearing on the stage with rivals Governor Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and former U.N. diplomat, Nikki Haley.
Trump deliberately shielded himself from a full frontal attack on the debate stage, choosing to let his GOP rivals tank one another instead. According to Trump, there is no point in appearing on stage, given his commanding lead over his challengers. In September, Trump noted, “I’m up 56 Points, so the debates would seem to be a complete waste of time.”
But Trump has indicated enthusiasm to take on Biden head-to-head on the debate stage. This situation didn’t end well for either candidate after the first presidential debate between them in 2020. The event was difficult to watch, with constant cross-talk and interruptions, mainly from Trump.
Following that debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates implemented new rules, like a mute button controlled by a CPD staff member. This button silences each candidate’s microphone for the first two minutes of their opponent’s speaking time at the start of each debate topic.
During the second debate between the two rivals in 2020, Trump pivoted to Biden’s corruption while Biden hammered Trump regarding COVID-19. This debate was more watchable, and both candidates were able to drive their points home throughout the event.
But with three general election debates scheduled in the fall of 2024, several prominent Democrats have advised Biden to skip the stage rather than take on Trump. Biden supporters worry that upcoming debates between Trump and Biden might end up “going off the rails” and benefitting Trump.
Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), a key supporter of Biden, said that Trump’s behavior during the 2020 debates and his refusal to engage in debates with GOP primary opponents could serve as a compelling reason not to “dignify him as a candidate” by participating in a discussion alongside him.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, expressed similar reservations about Biden debating Trump. He recently told The Hill, “I would think twice about it; it’s just an opportunity for him to display his extremism.”
But Democratic strategist James Carville disagrees and thinks Biden should participate in the debates because voters expect it. Carville noted, “It’s expected of a presidential candidate. Not debating would certainly accentuate the age problem.”
The Republican National Committee decided in 2022 to pull out of debates organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a “nonpartisan group” criticized by conservatives for its left-leaning bias.
But Trump is willing to participate despite that decision. “They are totally corrupt, and they’re terrible,” Trump said in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “With that being said, I would do 20 debates even if it was organized by them.”
President Biden’s campaign has not committed to any presidential debates. When questioned about Biden’s lack of enthusiasm to face Trump, President Biden’s top deputy campaign manager, Quentin Fulks, pointed out that the GOP frontrunner is not participating in Republican primary debates.
Fulks coddled Biden’s hesitancy to appear on a debate stage with Trump by stating that his campaign would “examine the schedule of the debates” and that Biden’s current priority is to ensure that he “continues to build out a campaign and infrastructure that’s going to be able to be competitive in 2024.”
In other words, Biden plans to be too busy for a presidential debate if it means going toe-to-toe with Trump. Biden’s refusal to commit to a Trump debate indicates a full awareness of the challenges he would face on the stage with the former president. Looks like another election cycle spent in the basement for Bumbling Biden.