Republican frontrunner Donald Trump may not be happy about it, but there will be at least one and possibly two more Republican presidential primary debates, with the next one scheduled a week from today in Salt Lake City. What Trump will like even less is who is hosting it: Fox News Channel.
Trump’s relationship with Fox News has been strained at best ever since his first debate appearance in August sparked a feud with the network in general and with host Megyn Kelly in particular. Trump boycotted the next Fox News debate, protesting Kelly’s presence as a moderator, though he returned for a third Fox debate later in the campaign.
In a press release, Fox News said Monday that Kelly, along with Fox hosts Chris Wallace and Brett Baier, would return as debate moderators.
Last week, after Trump’s strong performance in primary elections in Michigan and Mississippi, he held a press conference in which he speculated that it might be time to call off the debates altogether.
When a reporter asked him about the upcoming debate, he seemed to genuinely not realize it was on the schedule. “I didn’t know there was a next debate. No? They have yet another?” he said.
“No, to be honest with you I think it’s time to end the debates.” He added, “I think we’ve had enough debates. How many times do you have to give the same answer to the same questions?”
Whether Trump will attend – and who else will be on stage if he does – may well hinge on the results of tomorrow’s primary elections in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Trump now looks all but sure to capture Florida, which would almost certainly drive Florida Sen. Marco Rubio out of the race. If the billionaire were able to take Ohio as well, that would force Ohio Gov. John Kasich out, too. If Trump turns in a dominant performance in the other states that vote tomorrow, he may feel emboldened to skip the debate, arguing as he has that they are more about the television networks raking in advertising dollars than about informing the voters.
However, if Texas Sen. Ted Cruz performs well tomorrow, and particularly if Rubio and Kasich are forced out, it will make a reality of what Cruz has been claiming for weeks: that this is really a two-man race between him and Trump. Under those circumstances, it would be difficult for Trump to back out of the debate without appearing to be afraid to face Cruz in a one-on-one setting.
If the debate does indeed take place, it will begin at 9 p.m. ET on March 21, broadcast live from the Salt Palace Convention Center.