Fox News anchor Bret Baier expects Donald Trump to be at the next Republican debate this week.
“We’ve been told by his people, and he’s said publicly that he’s going to be there on Thursday,” Baier told Business Insider on Tuesday.
Baier, one of the moderators of the Fox-hosted debate on Thursday, said he was aware of rumours that Trump may skip another Fox debate. But he downplayed that potential outcome.
“I think we’re going to get a confirmation that he’s going to appear. But we’ll be prepared either way, as we were last time,” Baier said.
Trump boycotted the previous Fox debate after repeatedly complaining that Fox host Megyn Kelly, one of the other two debate moderators, was biased against him.
Rumours have circulated over the past week that if Trump racks up overwhelming wins during the swath of Republican primaries and caucuses on Tuesday, the real-estate mogul could declare victory and skip future primary debates.
“People close to Trump tell people who tell me that after Tuesday, Trump will say race is over and he won’t participate in further debates,” Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol tweeted Sunday.
Last weekend, Trump slammed the “ridiculous” primary debates for becoming too predictable. He said they had become a “terrible waste of time” for him.
“How about if I don’t do the next debate? Yes?” Trump asked his supporters before reversing himself: “Ah, no, I’ll do it.”
On Tuesday, Baier warned that missing the debate may be a poor strategic move. Baier pointed out that if Trump does decide to skip the debate, it could still impact election results in other states that have not held primaries or caucuses.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight, obviously, but even if he has a great night, he won’t have anywhere near the delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination,” Baier said.
Baier said that the debate moderators would not address Trump’s decision to sit out the last debate at the Thursday-night event — unless other candidates raise the issue.
“That’s so long ago, we feel like it’s water under the bridge,” Baier said. “And it’s not the focus.”
Baier also said he, Kelly, and the third moderator, Fox anchor Chris Wallace, wanted to focus their questions on topics that had not been addressed in previous debates. The moderators’ goal would be to throw candidates off their talking points.
“Everybody by now has heard a lot of these stump speeches over and over again,” Baier said. “We are now seven months since our first debate. So we are going to ask things in a little different way, [and include] a few different topics that haven’t come up.”
He added: “Our goal is to be able to on Friday have a headline that says, ‘Fiery, but most substantive debate yet.’ That’s ideal. If we can get to that ideal, fantastic. If we can come close, great. If we can just keep it on the rails, I’m happy.”