Former President Trump’s campaign Wednesday took a jab at Republican candidates who will be on the debate stage in Milwaukee, and reduced the event to what it called an “audition” for the former president’s second term.
“President Trump has already won this evening’s debate because everything is going to be about him. Only President Trump has the policy ideas, the fortitude, and the polling to go head-to-head with Crooked Joe Biden in the general election,” said Trump campaign senior adviser Chris LaCivita in a statement.
“In fact, tonight’s Republican undercard event really shouldn’t even be called a debate, but rather an audition to be a part of President Trump’s team in his second term,” LaCivita said.
With Trump boasting a significant lead in polls of the Republican primary field, some see his fellow candidates in a race for second place — an opportunity to stand out as a potential running mate for Trump, should he become the GOP nominee.
The former president, who has been beleaguered by ongoing legal woes, is expected to be a main topic during the debate despite his absence from the stage.
Trump had long floated the possibility of skipping one or more debates sponsored by the Republican National Convention, and after much suspense on whether or not he’d take the stage, he announced over the weekend that he wouldn’t be taking part in Wednesday’s event, which is seen as the kickoff of the party’s presidential nominating process.
Trump and his campaign have cited his often double-digit lead in polling and his top name recognition as reasons for staying off the stage. Trump has also knocked Fox News, which will host the debate, as a “hostile network” despite the network being a friendly audience to Republicans.
LaCivita claimed that debate viewers should expect the Fox News hosts “to show an unnatural obsession” with Trump during the event, “asking other Republican candidates over and over to react to President Trump’s policy positions.” He added that the Trump team will be tallying the number of times the former president’s name comes up.
In lieu of participating in the official debate, for which eight GOP candidates have qualified, a pre-taped interview between Trump and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson is expected to be released as the GOP debate airs at 9 p.m. ET.