MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN — An internal poll released by the DeSantis campaign reveals most early-state voters think Trump’s absence at the first Republican primary debate would make him look “weak.”
Likely Republican primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada were asked last month whether they agree or disagree with the following statement:
“Donald Trump should debate the other challengers for the nomination. Skipping the debate makes him look weak.”
- Iowa: 65% agree (46% strongly), 27% disagree
- New Hampshire: 64% agree (50% strongly), 27% disagree
- South Carolina: 60% agree (47% strongly), 32% disagree
- Nevada: 64% agree (48% strongly), 28% disagree
Trump repeatedly said he would likely skip the debate because of his commanding lead over the other GOP candidates. But if Trump does attend, DeSantis will have a face-to-face opportunity to point out why he’s different from Trump.
"We prepare for both eventualities," DeSantis said last month. "He says he's not going to go, maybe he shows up."
"I think he should show up. I think everyone should show up,” DeSantis added. “You owe it to make the case to the people about why you should be president. And at the end of the day, nobody's entitled to a nomination.”
DeSantis is preparing for the showdown with the help of seasoned debate coach Brett O'Donnell. His campaign says the governor can handle attacks from any GOP candidate, regardless of whether Trump is present.