Tuesday, September 26, 2023

GOP Presidential Candidates To Skirmish Wednesday

Donald Trump’s dominance over the Republican primary field is on the precipice of no return. Fox News is approaching this week’s debate as if it’s now or never for everyone else.

“It’s crunch time for them,” Fox News host Dana Perino told POLITICO ahead of Wednesday’s debate. “They have supporters and donors who want to see a breakout moment.

During the first debate in August, candidates spent more time attacking Democratic President Joe Biden than they did the GOP front-runner. Perino says if they want to succeed on the stage in California, they may have to go after Trump.

“They all agree about Joe Biden. The way to have a breakout moment is not about what you’re going to say about the current president. It’s about how you think that you would be a better president than the one we have now, or the one that we’ve had before that is running again,” Perino said.

Trump won’t be there to parry any attacks, should his rivals decide to deliver them. The former president is bypassing the second debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California for his own rally in Detroit, where he’s expected to speak to over 500 union workers representing different trades, including autoworkers, amid the ongoing UAW strike.

Trump’s decision to skip the debate — after he opted out of the first in favor of a sit-down interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson — is unsurprising, given the venue. Just days before the event, board members and advisers at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute described Trump as a “spoiled brat in a sandbox” and compared him to Voldemort.

The White House contenders, in alphabetical order, are North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, biotech entrepreneur and political commentator Vivek Ramaswamy, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Fox News was able to draw 12.8 million viewers during the first debate in Milwaukee. While those numbers reflected an interest in GOP candidates other than Trump, they didn’t outpace the first GOP debate in August 2015 during his first run at the White House.

Whether that interest will pull in high ratings for Fox the second time around remains to be seen, Perino said. But many voters are still hoping to avoid a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024.

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