Trump's Senate backers are fine with him skipping 2024 primary debates: 'Most of it's for entertainment anyway'

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  • Trump is threatening to skip 2024 primary debates, and his Senate backers are just fine with that.

  • "Most of it's for entertainment anyway," Sen. Tommy Tuberville told Insider.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio said Trump is "trolling" the media — but that he could get away with skipping.

In recent days, former President Donald Trump has suggested that he may skip upcoming GOP primary debates, arguing there's little political upside to sharing a stage with his opponents.

Republican senators who've endorsed his 2024 presidential campaign say they're just fine with that.

"Most of it's for entertainment anyway," said Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, who notably avoided debates and most interviews during his 2020 election campaign.

Trump first raised the idea of skipping debates in an April 25 post on his "Truth Social" website, arguing he shouldn't "subject" himself to "being libeled and abused" when he's leading by "seemingly insurmountable numbers."

He repeated that argument two days later before a crowd in New Hampshire, pointing to some of his current and potential primary opponents' extremely low polling numbers.

"Why would you do that?" said Trump. "You want intelligent people, don't you?"


And the New York Times on Tuesday reported that Trump was likely to skip at least one of the first two debates, owing in part to the first debate being hosted by Fox News, with which he continues to feud.

In brief interviews with Insider at the Capitol on Tuesday, some of the 11 Republican senators who've endorsed Trump backed him up on those arguments.

"I leave it up to him," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina repeated three different times when asked about the prospect.

"He really probably doesn't have to go through all of the debates," said Tuberville, pointing to Trump's well-established reputation and name ID. "As long as you do a few at the end, you know?"

"I suspect he's making a political calculation about what's in his best interests," said Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, who also argued that Trump has "always been effective" in debate settings. "I don't think that he needs to debate as much as the other candidates."

At the same time, skipping a debate could prove politically risky for Trump.

"Who knows whether he intends to do that or not?" said Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana. "I think eventually he'll probably choose to participate in it, and I think he'd do well at it."

He famously skipped a primary debate before the 2016 Iowa caucus, allowing other candidates to criticize him without him being able to respond. He would go on to lose that election to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

"I think all the top candidates should participate in debates," Cruz, who has not endorsed a candidate in the 2024 race, told Insider. "I think debates are good for democracy."

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has not yet endorsed anyone in the 2024 race, nonchalantly declared that "it will all work out" when asked about Trump's threat.

"I think he's trolling you guys," said Rubio.

"Do I think he's capable of not going to one of the debates? Yeah, he did it before," Rubio later added. "I don't think it'll affect the outcome."

According to averages of recent polling, Trump currently holds the support of roughly 52% of GOP primary voters — more than double the support of his nearest potential challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, averaging roughly 23% support.

Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, announced in April that the first GOP primary debate would be held in August in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She later announced that the second debate would be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library California.

On Sunday, when asked about Trump's threat to skip the debates, she said simply that it was "his choice."

Read the original article on Business Insider