Former President Donald Trump will not be attending the Republican Party primary debate in Milwaukee on Wednesday, and Fox News has responded by restricting his surrogates from gaining access to the event.
Trump declared his decision over the weekend, citing a CBS News GOP primary poll that showed 73% of likely primary voters felt he should attend the debate, while only 27% said he should not.
“I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!” Trump declared on social media on Sunday evening.
In response to Trump’s absence, Fox News has informed the Trump campaign that access to the debate’s “spin room” will now only be granted to “participating candidate/campaigns” and other campaigns that did not qualify, according to a memo obtained by Axios.
Trump is instead taping a pre-recorded interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that will be streamed on social media around the time of the debate.
“Unfortunately, by skipping the debates, Donald Trump may actually be helping Joe Biden,” Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy commented this week. “He’s giving Joe Biden an excuse for not debating Donald Trump.”
Doocy went on to note that if Trump says he doesn’t need to debate, Biden could likewise say he doesn’t need to debate Trump.
Trump himself has opined that the results of the CBS News GOP poll mean the primary election is essentially over. But a recent poll released this week in Iowa suggests the race could be much closer in the key primary state.
The news of Trump’s absence from the Milwaukee debate comes just days after Trump expressed his lack of interest in attending the next debate as well.
“I don’t think I’m going to do the debate in March in Phoenix,” Trump said in remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this past weekend.
He also dismissed the idea of attending the April debate, saying “there’s no reason to do a debate” and that “no one is going to watch it” because it would be “too soon.”
It remains to be seen if Trump will have a change of heart and attend the Phoenix or April debates. In the meantime, Fox News’ decision to restrict Trump’s surrogates from the Milwaukee debate sends the distinct message that the network is ready to move on without Donald Trump in the GOP primary race.