Jason Miller, a longtime adviser to former US President Donald Trump, told The Hill on Tuesday that Trump was “unlikely” to participate in at least the first two Republican presidential primary debates, but has not made his final decision on the matter.
Miller doubled down on Trump’s position that his strong polling numbers make it unwise for the former president to join the other candidates on the debate stage.
“At the moment, President Trump has indicated that he’s unlikely to participate, at least in the first two debates. He’s up by 30, 40, and even new polling shows he’s up by almost 50 percent in certain places,” Miller said.
“It really wouldn’t make much sense for him to go and debate right now with a bunch of folks who are down at three, four and five percent. Even [Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis], who’s the second-place candidate in the race currently, is at least 20, 30 or 40 points behind,” he added.
“So ultimately, President Trump will make a decision as we get closer. He has not said anything definitive, one way or the other. I’m not expecting him to participate, though,” Miller said.
Recent polls of hypothetical 2024 GOP primary matchups show Trump with a commanding lead over other candidates.
In a new Morning Consult Poll, 56 percent of potential GOP primary voters surveyed said they’d support Trump; 17 percent said they would support DeSantis; 8 percent favored conservative entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; and 7 percent favored former Vice President Mike Pence.
In an NBC News poll released at the end of June, 51% of national Republican primary voters picked Trump as their first choice in the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, followed by 22% who chose DeSantis, 7% who selected Pence and 5% who named former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The Republican field is crowded and also includes former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.
The first 2024 Republican presidential primary debate is scheduled to take place August 23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In order to attend, candidates must meet certain criteria, including a pledge to support whichever candidate ultimately ascends to the top of the ticket. Many candidates — including Trump — have been reticent to fully make that pledge.
Miller, in the interview, maintained that Trump is committed to debating President Joe Biden in the general election if, as expected, they are both nominated.
“We look very much forward to taking on Joe Biden, which is really what this race is going to be about,” Miller said about Trump. “And at a certain point here, I think the other candidates, who are down at three, four and five percent, have to look in the mirror and say, ‘Hey, is this actually helping their candidacy? Or is it really just getting in the way of us beating Joe Biden next year?’”