Trump will not be present at the first Republican presidential debate. But his presence will be felt


Milwaukee (AP) – It will be absent from the stagebut Donald Trump She will remain a central figure in the first GOP presidential primary debate Wednesday night as the remaining candidates hoping to face off against President Joe Biden in person for the first time.

the Eight competitors who are scheduled to attend Milwaukee discussion The election, hosted by Fox News, is likely to face pressure to show how different it is in style and substance from Trump, who is leading the race early. This could be a delicate task, forcing candidates to decide how well they align with the former president’s more outlandish positions, including his lies about large-scale fraud during the 2020 election.

And with less than five months before the Iowa caucuses begin the Republican presidential nomination process, the debate presents a crucial opportunity for low-ball candidates to introduce themselves to millions of voters, many of whom are just beginning to take an interest in the race. The pressure may be greater for you Florida Governor Ron DeSantiswho announced his campaign in May with great fanfare, but has since struggled to gain momentum and is now struggling to maintain his second-place spot.

“It’s a really important thing for the whole audience and an opportunity for them to connect,” said former Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who skipped his own race. But he said the stakes are higher for DeSantis.

“It really is do-or-die, make-or-break. Finally, it’s time to show he’s a capable candidate. If he doesn’t, I think that could be the end,” he added.

Besides DeSantis, the debate will include South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, former Vice President Mike Pence, and former Arkansas Governor. Asa Hutchinson.

the climax event It will unfold in a moment of reckoning for the Republican Party.

Eight candidates will take to the stage in the Republican primary debate on Wednesday. Former President Donald Trump said he would skip the debate and indicated he would hold a rival event instead. (22 Aug)

Trump now An extravagant early racerWhich raises serious questions about whether the party will be highly competitive in the primaries. Still, Trump’s weaknesses in the general election are evident, especially in the wake of four criminal indictments accusing him of everything from hoarding classified documents, conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, and paying hush money to a porn actress and other women.

The debate will take place one day before Trump travels to Georgia to be booked again on criminal charges.

However, Trump’s standing in the primaries rose as the accusations mounted, leaving the GOP on track — barring a spectacular realignment — to nominate a candidate who would enter the race against Biden in a potentially vulnerable position. poll this month From the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, it found that 64% of Americans are unlikely to support Trump if he were the GOP nominee, including 53% who say they definitely wouldn’t and 11% who say they probably wouldn’t. in November 2024.

At the Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee, metal barriers were erected outside the court that houses the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team on Tuesday night. At least one bar near the stadium carried a sign welcoming Republicans to the Democratic-majority city along Lake Michigan.

The Fiserv Forum is seen as preparations continue for the upcoming Republican presidential debate on Tuesday, August 22, 2023 in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Maury Gash)

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, along with Milwaukee officials, planned an event Wednesday to showcase local businesses ahead of next summer’s convention, which will also be held in the city in a sign of the state’s commitment. First battlefield situation. The Democrats were planning to hold rival events.

The Republican National Committee has set ballot and donor limits and required participants to sign a pledge of allegiance in order to qualify for the debate, which will be Moderated by Fox’s Brett Baier and Martha MacCallum.

Trump has long said he feels it would be foolish to participate, given his dominant lead in the race. His decision to boycott is nonetheless a blow to the network, which had privately and publicly engaged him on air to appear. Instead, Trump pre-recorded an interview with former Fox host Tucker Carlson, which is expected to be broadcast on the platform formerly known as Twitter during the debate.

But even in his absence, Trump’s presence is expected to be felt at the debate. McCallum said she would press her rivals to respond to Trump’s accusations, telling Vanity Fair that “they will definitely have to deal with it.”

He won’t be on the debate stage, but former president and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump will be the elephant in the room at the first-ever GOP presidential primary debate on Wednesday in Milwaukee. (22 Aug)

Until now, the candidates have been reticent to directly confront Trump, given his broad support from the base of the Republican Party, and the main question is how aggressive his competitors are in dealing with him.

In his absence, DeSantis’ campaign is poised to make Florida’s governor the primary target of the debate as the front-runner on the stage.

In a memo sent to donors and supporters over the weekend, DeSantis’ campaign manager, James Authmier, said they are “absolutely prepared to have Governor DeSantis as the center of attacks” because, he said, “this is a two-man race for the Republican nomination.” Between Governor DeSantis and Donald Trump”.

Othmyer said that DeSantis will try to stay above the fray, and that “his goal in this debate will be to present his vision to defeat Joe Biden, reverse the American decline, and revive the American dream.”

Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor and DeSantis supporter, said DeSantis should be prepared to fend off attacks from the rest of the field, but “he should focus on politics and what he’s going to do for the voters — and not let the debate be about everything.” About the only candidate who is not on stage.

He added, “The stakes are enormous for Governor DeSantis. He will be the first contestant on the stage and everyone will have to go through it to face Trump in the end.

Ken Cuccinelli, leader of Never Back Down, the Super PAC that supports DeSantis, asserted that DeSantis was still in a better position among Trump’s rivals to outlast him, and portrayed the debate as an opportunity for DeSantis to speak directly to viewers at home.

“People want a bloodsport to some degree, and they associate that with Trump,” he said. “But for me, its value lies in the personal introduction that is not filtered by the media. It will not be one-on-one interactions (DeSantis) with any particular candidate. It is the whole package, presented to voters who are hearing all this for the first time.

But Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is among the long list of Trump supporters who have traveled to Milwaukee to back him in his absence, called Wednesday’s debate a “waste of time” given Trump’s lead in the polls.

“It makes no sense,” she said. He added, “He’s leading by more than 40 points… I think the primaries are over. … We’re just watching people trying to get into Cabinet.”

Most of the field has been reluctant to attack Trump during the campaign so far. But some, including Hutchinson, have been vocal in their opposition. Pence criticized Trump for his efforts to overturn the election, while Christie presented himself as the most anti-Trump candidate and called the former president a “coward” for refusing to participate in the debate.

Christie, who helped Trump prepare for his debates in previous campaigns by playing the part of Trump’s opponents, offered a preview of the punches he might land while campaigning in Atlanta over the weekend.

“When are we going to allow our country to understand again that putting someone on bail in four jurisdictions is not a winning formula?” Asked.

Meanwhile, Democrats have dismissed the field as extreme and divisive, even without Trump on stage.

“The reality is, it doesn’t matter who wins the debate,” Rep. Cedric Richmond, co-chair of the Biden-Harris campaign, said on a call with reporters. “They are all playing by the same playbook, they are all adopting the same unpopular positions that Donald Trump has led, and he continues to radicalize this party.”

___ Colvin reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Bill Barrow in Atlanta and Steve Peoples in New York contributed to this report.

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