Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said former President Trump, who has hinted he may skip GOP primary debates, has an obligation to voters to “show up and makes his case.”
DeSantis made the remark when he spoke with Newsmax’s Eric Bolling, who asked if Trump should take part in the Fox News-hosted first debate, set for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee. Trump has not said unequivocally that he will be a no-show, but has given that indication.
“Yeah, I think he ought to debate,” DeSantis said. “I’m going to debate; I’m going to be there. It’s a great opportunity for us to have a great discussion about the country’s future.”
“Nobody’s entitled to be nominated; you’ve got to earn it,” DeSantis added. “And I think he should show up and make his case and answer questions like the rest of us. At the end of the day, this country’s in decline. We all see that, we all know that. I’m running because I want to reverse the decline.”
DeSantis said he hopes any future Republican debates focus on issues and pledged not to be drawn in to personal attacks, even if Trump strikes first.
“When I announced my candidacy in May I was asked questions about Trump criticizing me,” he said. “I hit back very directly but it was on substance. I’m not going to attack him personally. I’m not going to call him names. I’m not gonna do that. That’s just not my style, not my cup of tea.”
DeSantis told Bolling that, if elected president in 2024, he intends to hit the ground running.
“We’re gonna spit nails,” he said. “We’re gonna bring all this stuff in for a landing and the country will be better off for it.”
NBC News reported in late June that Trump was thinking of skipping the GOP debate and scheduling an event of his own instead. Trump has skipped debates before, including in 2016, when he missed the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses, instead holding a fundraiser for veterans. He subsequently lost the Iowa caucuses to Texas GOP Senator Ted Cruz.
Earlier this month, DeSantis made his pitch for appealing beyond the base of the Republican party, saying, “At the end of the day, people want to win, and you can’t win with just Republican voters. I think we showed in Florida, if you want a big victory, you’ve got to win independent voters, you’ve got to win people who haven’t voted for our party in the last several cycles. I’ve shown I can do that, and I think we can do it nationally.”