WASHINGTON ― Coup-attempting former President Donald Trump on Monday demanded that his party stop hosting debates for his Republican presidential rivals or be “revamped.”
Trump has not attended any of the three debates the Republican National Committee has sponsored since late August and does not intend to attend the fourth one next month.
Yet, as actual voting in primaries and caucuses draws nearer and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has risen steadily in the polls, both he and his campaign have become increasingly vocal about ending the debates entirely.
“RNC must save money on lowest ever ratings debates. Use it against the Democrats to STOP THE STEAL! If not, REVAMP THE RNC, NOW!!!” Trump wrote on his social media website Monday afternoon.
It is unclear why Trump believes that hosting the debates costs the RNC money when the media partners are the ones that bear the expenses. It’s also unclear how, precisely, the RNC should be restructured or what the mechanism for that might be.
Trump’s staff did not respond to HuffPost’s queries.
Former President Donald Trump waves goodbye at the conclusion of a campaign rally Nov. 2 at Trendsetter Engineering in Houston. Trump is insisting that the Republican National Committee not host future debates for his GOP rivals.
RNC members said Trump appears not to understand how the debates work.
“The debates cost the RNC nothing,” said longtime Massachusetts member Ron Kaufman. “In fact, they are fundraisers for us. There are always folks who love to go and know they will be asked to give, and they do.”
“Not sure why he thinks they are a drain on resources,” said Illinois member Richard Porter. “Perhaps the debates worry him for another reason?”
In his Truth Social post, Trump also cited a new national poll that shows him with an enormous lead over his rivals: “GREAT POLLS JUST RELEASED - BEST EVER! Harvard/Harris TRUMP 67%, DeSanctimonious 9%, Birdbrain 8%, Ramaswamy 5%, Christie - dead in the water, a total loser!”
Trump was referring to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Haley, Ohio businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, using his signature childish nicknames for DeSantis and Haley.
But while Trump is averaging close to 60% in national polls, he remains under 50% ― meaning more Republicans are leaning toward voting for someone else ― in the states that vote first in the primaries. Political consultants in both parties agree that Trump losses in those states destroys the air of inevitability he has fostered and could let a challenger win ― particularly with his first criminal trial for his actions leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt set to start in early March.
“He’s the incumbent,” Porter said. “A loss in either Iowa or New Hampshire undermines that status and opens the door to a competitor.”
Trump faces a total of 91 felony counts that could send him to prison for decades in four separate indictments. Trump has pleaded not guilty in all four cases.
Two are related to his coup attempt after losing the 2020 election: the federal case in Washington, D.C., set for trial in March, and a Georgia state case. There is also a federal prosecution in South Florida for his refusal to return secret documents taken from the White House and a New York state case charging him with falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 hush money payment to a porn star before the 2016 election.
He nevertheless retains the loyalty of much of the Republican Party and remains the front-runner for its 2024 presidential nomination.