You HAVE TO KNOW Donald Trump ain’t showing up, Right?
A Firehouse Strategies poll finds that 66% of Republican voters want Donald Trump to participate in the first primary debate, including an even higher 77% of his supporters in the primary.
And 71% also said it was important for candidates to sign a “loyalty pledge” to support the eventual nominee, a prerequisite to attend the debates that Trump has not completed.
Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle will attend the first GOP debate of the 2024 election cycle despite Donald Trump’s absence, the Daily Caller reports.
New York Times: “They will be watching with bated breath in hopes that the Republican candidates embrace the likely-to-be-absent Donald J. Trump, defend him over his four criminal indictments, endorse national restrictions on abortion and — in the Democrats’ dream scenario — call for cuts to Social Security and Medicare.”
“Even without Mr. Trump onstage, Democrats see the Republican White House hopefuls as avatars for what they describe as a party in thrall to its extreme elements. Nobody is rooting for the debate to go off the rails more than Democrats praying for Mr. Biden’s re-election.”
Key takeaway: “Nothing would make Democrats happier than to see Republicans embrace a national ban on abortion during a nationally televised debate.”
The situation poses a conundrum for candidates such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (R), who must be careful not to cross Trump’s supporters while also winning over at least a portion of them.
“If I were thinking of it as a strategic matter, I’d like to be able to emerge from this debate as the principal non-Trump alternative,” said Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist who worked on former President George W. Bush’s campaigns.
Throughout much of the 2024 race so far, the Republican candidates have largely avoided direct criticisms of Trump and been among his defenders for each of the four indictments that have been filed against him in multiple jurisdictions.
Most have echoed his arguments of a two-tiered justice system that is politically motivated in targeting him with so many in the Republican primary electorate solidly behind him, demonstrated by his consistently significant leads in the polls.
That has forced a difficult juggling act for the other candidates to try to present themselves as the future of the party without invoking Trump’s criticism or his base’s anger. Experts said that dynamic will likely continue and cause the other candidates to turn their attention toward each other in competition for taking the second spot in the polls to Trump.
“I don’t think you’re going to meaningfully degrade Trump in this debate, but you might score points on someone else or perhaps separate yourself from the rest of the rabble,” Jennings said….