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Republicans Will Now Have A Presidential Primary Debate … Sort Of

By  Eric Quintanar
GOP Presidential Debate August 2015
Scott Olson/Staff via Getty Images

Business Insider has invited former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), former Gov. Bill Weld (R-MA), former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), and President Donald Trump to participate in a Republican presidential primary election debate on Tuesday, September 24, according to Fox News.

“The political landscape has changed immeasurably since Donald Trump ran for and was elected President,” says Business Insider in a press release reported by The Hill. “It’s vitally important to have an honest conversation about what it means to be a Republican in the era of Trump; our debate will be a valuable part of that discussion.”

Walsh and Weld have confirmed that they will participate in the debate, which will be live-streamed by Business Insider on Facebook, reports Fox News. Although Sanford plans to participate in the debate, he has not yet confirmed his participation due to a current schedule conflict. Trump has not yet responded to the invitation.

The debate announcement comes as a small but vocal faction of the conservative movement continues to search for a nominee to replace President Trump at the top of the Republican Party ticket next November.

Both Walsh and Sanford previously supported Trump, although Sanford wrote in The New York Times in 2016 that he found Trump’s style distasteful.

“I am a conservative Republican who, though I have no stomach for his personal style and his penchant for regularly demeaning others, intends to support my party’s nominee because of the importance of filling the existing vacancy on the Supreme Court, and others that might open in the next four years,” wrote Sanford.

Walsh stopped supporting the president after Trump appeared alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in a press conference in Helsinki, in which Trump questioned whether Russia interfered in the 2016 elections. Trump’s questioning contradicted information provided to him by U.S. intelligence sources, according to NPR.

“Trump was a traitor today. I cannot & will not support a traitor. No decent American should,” Walsh tweeted at the time.

Recent surveys show that a majority of registered Republicans still approve of Trump’s performance in office. Last month, a Gallup poll found that 88% of Republicans approve of his performance. Another poll, conducted by Ipsos and published in early September, shows that 77% of Republicans approve of the president.

Last week, Trump announced on Twitter that he has a 94% approval rating among Republicans, but it remains unclear how he arrived at that number.

Despite a growing crop of Republican challengers to the president, South Carolina, Nevada, and Kansas have all announced they will not hold Republican presidential primaries and will commit all their delegates to Trump. South Carolina and Kansas made a similar decision ahead of the 2004 Republican presidential primaries, according to The Nation.

Nonetheless, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has previously remained open to the idea of allowing Republican challengers to Trump, although she publicly cautioned earlier this year at CPAC that any challenger would “lose horribly,” according to CNN.

“What would any Republican be thinking, saying this is a guy I’m going to run against? So have at it, go ahead, waste your money, waste your time, and go ahead and lose,” said McDaniel.

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