Aug 21, 2023, 9:27am EDT

Trump is (mostly) skipping this week’s debate

REUTERS/Joshua Lott

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The News

Donald Trump is now officially bowing out of the first GOP debate in Milwaukee later this week, but his team is planning a blitz of sorts to keep him in the mix.

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Know More

The Trump campaign intends to have surrogates in the “Spin Room” after the debate, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Byron Donalds, Matt Gaetz, Carlos Gimenez and former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake. Some of Trump’s most senior aides — Chris LaCivita, Jason Miller, and Steven Cheung — will also be in town, and have plans to attend the debate, two sources familiar with the planning told Semafor. (Exact details are still being sorted out.)

The other campaigns are hoping Trump pays a price for dodging the debates. A new poll shared exclusively with Semafor from Firehouse Strategies, a bipartisan public affairs firm, found that 66% of GOP voters want Trump to participate, 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.

That said, the same poll’s horse race numbers reinforced Trump’s public explanation for skipping out: He received support from 50% of Republican respondents, well ahead of second-place DeSantis’ 16%, and third-place Ramaswamy’s 9%.