Trump Sets Town Hall That Directly Competes With Republican Debate in Same City

Trump Sets Town Hall That Directly Competes With Republican Debate in Same City

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Two of his challengers will face off against each other on the same night in Des Moines while a third will participate in an alternative event.

Former President Donald Trump and Fox News will hold a town hall that directly competes with his Republican rivals’ debate on CNN in the same Iowa city.

Fox News announced on Jan. 2 that the event will be broadcast live at 9 p.m. Eastern on Jan. 10, five days before the Iowa caucuses, the first of the nation’s 2024 Republican presidential preference contests.

The network did not disclose the specific venue for the event but said it would be held in Des Moines. Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum will co-moderate, “marking the first time Trump will sit with Baier and MacCallum jointly since May 2020,” the network said.

It also marks the first time that President Trump, who has skipped all four previous Republican primary debates during this election cycle, is holding an event in the same city as the Republican National Committee’s sanctioned debates with GOP candidates.

The fifth such debate is set to air on CNN at 9 p.m. Eastern on Jan. 10. It will be held at Drake University with CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash co-moderating.

President Trump was one of only three candidates who met the network’s qualifying criteria for that debate. The others were Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as President Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations.

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To qualify for participation in the Iowa debate, candidates had to receive at least 10 percent in three separate national and/or Iowa polls of Republican caucusgoers or primary voters that met CNN’s standards for reporting, the network said in a report Tuesday.

“One of the three polls must be an approved CNN poll of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers,” the network said.

Trump Still Leading

President Trump’s decision to participate in the town hall means Ms. Haley and Mr. DeSantis will face off against each other. Both issued statements about the 45th president’s absence from the GOP debate stage thus far, accusing him of being afraid to debate.

But the former president has said he sees no advantage to participating in the GOP debates, considering that he has held a dominating lead over his Republican rivals for months in opinion polls.

Shortly before Fox News announced the town hall, Ms. Haley’s campaign released a statement calling on President Trump to participate in the CNN-sponsored debate. “With only three candidates qualifying, it’s time for Donald Trump to show up,” she said. “As the debate stage continues to shrink, it’s getting harder for Donald Trump to hide.” She noted that eight candidates qualified for the first debate in August; only five qualified in November.

Her campaign did not immediately issue a reaction to the Fox News-Trump announcement, but Mr. DeSantis’ campaign did.

“We understand Donald Trump is scared to get on the stage because he’d have to finally explain” several issues, DeSantis campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo said in a statement. Those include “why he didn’t build the [Mexico-U.S. border] wall, added nearly $8 trillion to the debt, and turned the country over to [Dr. Anthony] Fauci,” who has been widely criticized for his advocacy of lockdowns and mask-wearing mandates during the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic response.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who faced off against Mr. DeSantis during a live broadcast on Fox News, “had the courage to debate his own failed record against Ron DeSantis,” Mr. Romeo said.

“If it would make it more inviting, we would gladly agree to make it a seated format where the former president would be more comfortable,” Mr. Romeo’s statement concluded.

Another candidate who did not qualify for the debate on CNN, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, will participate in an alternative event on debate night, too. He will appear before a live audience with podcaster and political commentator Tim Pool.

“Forget @CNN’s fake Iowa ‘debate’ on Jan 10 which will be the most boring in modern history,“ Mr. Ramaswamy wrote Jan. 2 on X, formerly Twitter. ”We’re doing a live-audience show that night in Des Moines with @Timcast instead. Won’t hold back.”

Austin Alonso contributed to this story.

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