We’re all focused on the Democratic debates, but it got us to thinking, what if Donald Trump refuses to debate—not only his GOP challengers, but the Democratic candidate in the Fall? Remember that Trump unilaterally killed the GOP debate in 2016—even with Fox moderators, perhaps because he looked silly in the previous debate, claiming that he didn’t have “tiny hands.”
Or maybe it’s because he likes to be moving at all times, and it was excruciating for him to stand in one place for three hours. Note that during the debate with Hillary Clinton, he couldn’t sit still, and was accused of “stalking” her.
Personally, I think the rest of the 2016 GOP were morons for allowing Trump to decide if there would be a debate or not. If they had gone on without him, they could have stated their cases, without having the air sucked out of the room by him. They could also have found that one of them stood out, to be a viable alternative to Trump. Instead, they said “yes, sir,” and that was really the end of the campaign, for all practical purposes.
The UK’s Daily Mail notes that Trump doesn’t like to debate.
President Donald Trump raised the possibility of ducking the 2020 presidential debates as he blasted Fox News for what he considers unfair treatment following a network poll that showed him trailing Democrats.
Trump brought up the debates while hammering the network after getting asked about the latest Fox poll – which showed him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris.
Then he said the network is making a ‘big mistake’ and proclaimed that it was he who ‘calls the shots’ on the debates, which are organized by a nonprofit corporation set up by the parties before the general election. thinks he’ll skip the whole thing this time. . .
The [quadrennial] Democrat-vs.-Republican debates that have become a staple of American politics are organized by a Commission on Presidential Debates, which is backed by the two parties.
Trump’s recent attack on Fox is odd since he speaks on the network more than most of their paid contributors. But he also took the opportunity recently to attack Democrats on Fox’ behalf, according to The Hill.
“Democrats just blocked @FoxNews from holding a debate. Good, then I think I’ll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates!” Trump tweeted Wednesday. . .
The president alone would not have the power to prevent outlets from hosting a general election debate.
The DNC and Republican National Committee (RNC) work with media outlets on arrangements for hosting their respective primary debates. The Commission on Presidential Debates sponsors the general election debates.
Democrats say they didn’t ban Fox because of their on-air programming, but rather, due to behind-the-scenes efforts, according to The Hill.
“Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in the statement.
Among other things, the article reported allegations that late Fox News founder Roger Ailes passed along questions to Trump prior to a 2016 Republican primary debate and noted that former Fox executive Bill Shine is now the White House communications director. Several other former Fox News employees and contributors work in the Trump administration.
Of course, it’s not unprecedented for a candidate to refuse to debate. After all, it’s the challenger who has everything to gain in a debate, not the assumed winner. For instance, in 2018, Republican incumbent Rep. Martha McSally and her main Democratic challenger both refused to debate her opponents in Arizona.
In the biggest race in Arizona, primary voters won’t get a chance to see the two parties’ presumed U.S. Senate front-runners squaring off against their opponents on the debate stage. . .
For all the ways Republican U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and Democratic U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema are different, they have at least one thing in common. Neither was willing to publicly face their rivals ahead of the Aug. 28 primary election, attempting to avoid elevating their opponents as well as potential gaffes that could complicate their chances of securing their party’s nomination.
Likewise, in Mississippi.
Another U.S. Senate special election debate has been canceled over candidates Cindy Hyde-Smith and Mike Espy declining to participate.
The Clarion Ledger, WLBT, the League of Women Voters and the Mississippi Bar Association had planned a debate for 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 at Mississippi College School of Law. A debate at Millsaps College scheduled for Thursday had been canceled because of the two candidates’ refusals.
The Politic lists more.
The refusal to debate was especially prevalent in uncompetitive races. In reliably Republican Alabama, incumbent Governor Kay Ivey consistently refused to debate her Democratic challenger Walt Maddox, saying to AL.com that she had “no plans to debate.”
Similarly, in the historically Republican Iowa 4th District, incumbent Rep. Steve King, who has consistently been embroiled in controversy due to racially incendiary comments, refused to debate his Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten. King simply stated that a debate was unnecessary, telling Radio Iowa that “nobody comes to [him] and says ‘I don’t know where you stand on an issue.’”
Trump could be in trouble if—somehow—he were forced to debate Republican challenger Joe Walsh, who says Republicans will get “spanked,” if Trump is the nominee. The conservative talk show host is right on Trump’s wavelength and is practiced in dealing with ideas. The GOP will see that Walsh disappears, one way or another. Trump’s campaign claims not to be concerned.
Less of a risk to Trump is Bill Weld, the Libertarian vice presidential candidate in 2016, who is running against Trump as a Republican this time. But Fox says his dark horse status won’t stop him.
“I should be in debates with Mr. Trump and I figure either I get a debate or I get an empty chair for me to talk to with 80 million people watching. Either one of those is good,” former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld said in an interview. . .
Weld acknowledges the heavy lift he faces in landing a debate with Trump.
“He’s going to hang tight and not give any ground whatsoever, so I think my gambit has to be to challenge Alec Baldwin to a debate and he can come out with his red Trump wig and we’ll see who wins that,” the former governor said, repeating a line he used earlier this month when discussing debates.
Maybe Weld can host Saturday Night Live. . .
Regardless of challengers or debates, it will be difficult for a Republican to unseat someone who is liked by 71% (or 94%, depending on whether you believe Rasmussen or Trump) of the party faithful. As for the general election. Democrats would have to come up with someone who really captures the public’s imagination. That ain’t likely.