GOP debate means different situations for Trump, DeSantis, Suarez

Event will take place in Milwaukee on Wednesday
Posted at 8:05 PM, Aug 18, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Next week’s Republican primary debate means different things to Florida’s three Republican presidential candidates. One wants to ignore it. Another wants to embrace it. And the third isn’t sure if he’s qualified for it.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Erie, Pa. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Former President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally Saturda in Erie, Pa.

Donald Trump

The former president now seems more committed than ever to skipping Wednesday’s GOP primary debate in Milwaukee. The New York Times reported Friday that Trump was planning to ditch to sit down with Tucker Carlson. The frontrunner aimed to siphon off viewers from the other GOP rivals.

It comes as Trump refuses to sign a required debate loyalty pledge. The candidate also spent the week swinging at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, claiming victory at the Iowa State Fair this weekend.

“Ron DeSanctamonious drew almost no crowd at the Iowa State Fair on Saturday," Trump said in an online post. "Neither did any other candidate with the expectation of your favorite president— me.”

Election 2024 DeSantis Iowa
FILE - Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves at the Republican Party of Iowa's 2023 Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, July 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Ron DeSantis

To be fair about the Iowa fair, Florida's governor did have a sizable crowd last weekend. In the days since he’s started focusing on debate prep in hopes of changing his campaign’s recent sagging poll numbers.

"We feel ready," Carly Atchison, DeSantis campaign spokeswoman, said. "Ron DeSantis will debate anyone anywhere, anytime. But this is a particularly unique opportunity to talk to millions of Americans who might not have been tuned in to the presidential race."

We’re also getting a look at the possible DeSantis debate strategy. A consulting group connected to the governor's super PAC posted this game plan memo online this week. It includes bullets like “defend" Trump… and “hammer" Vivek Ramaswamy who’s starting to gain steam.

Francis Suarez launches AI chatbot for presidential campaign

Francis Suarez

Earlier Friday, Miami's mayor announced online he had met the RNC’s qualifications to make it to Milwaukee. He touted the achievement in an online post:

“I’m very excited to let you all know that we have qualified for the first GOP debate," Suarez said. “I’m so excited to deliver my message of prosperity to the entire nation— to introduce myself to the entire nation"

A short time later, the Miami Herald reported debate officials refuted the mayor's claim. The Associated Press reported the RNC had told the candidate only that he may qualify— not that he had. The dispute is now likely to carry into the weekend ahead of the Monday deadline.

Requests for comment from Suarez's campaign weren't immediately returned.

FOX News will host Wednesday's debate at 9 p.m. Eastern time. It's scheduled to run for two hours.