NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump says he is eager to debate President Joe Biden, even if the debates are sponsored by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. And he says he is open to debating a single Republican rival if a serious challenger emerges after the New Hampshire primary.
Trump, who has skipped all of the primary debates so far citing his commanding lead in the polls, was asked if he will debate Biden if named his party’s nominee during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Friday.
“Oh will I look forward to that,” Trump responded. “How about 10 debates?”
That’s even, he said, if the debates are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which he and fellow Republicans have railed against for years.
“They are totally corrupt and they’re terrible. With that being said, I would do 20 debates, even if it was organized by them. I would do as many debates as they want,” he said. “I’d do a debate every night with this guy.”
The Republican National Committee voted unanimously in April 2022 to withdraw from the commission’s events, alleging biased, and required that candidates sign a pledge vowing to only participate in debates sanctioned by the committee. Trump, however, never signed the pledge.
The nonprofit was established in 1987 and has sponsored every general election presidential and vice presidential debates since. The organization outlines the rules for each debate and selects the locations, dates and moderators for the events.
Trump also said in the interview that he would be willing to participate in a Republican primary debate if the race comes down to just him and a single rival after the New Hampshire primary. Public polls currently show him with large leads in all the early-voting states, but Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, has been gaining ground, particularly in New Hampshire.
“Yeah, I would, if it was very close, I would debate that Republican,” Trumps said.
Still, Trump claimed he is “not worried” about Haley, who also served as ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump administration.
Biden’s campaign has not yet committed to general election debates next year. Quentin Fulks, Biden’s top deputy campaign manager, told reporters earlier this month that the campaign would “look at the schedule” that the Commission on Presidential Debates released in November, but that “right now” their “focus is on making sure we continue to build out a campaign and infrastructure that’s going to be able to be competitive in 2024.”
Trump has skipped all of the GOP primary debates, but has long said a general election campaign would be different.
“We have to debate,” he told Fox News host Bret Baier in a June interview. “He and I have to definitely debate. That’s what I love. The two of us have to debate.”
The commission has set a schedule of three presidential debates to be held in college towns in Texas, Virginia and Utah between Sept. 16 and Oct. 9, 2024, as well as one vice presidential debate in Pennsylvania.
As president, Trump repeatedly accused the commission of unfair treatment and ultimately refused to participate in the second 2020 debate after a decision was made for it to be held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. National Democrats also expressed frustration with the commission in 2020, accusing it of failing to enforce rules when it came to Trump.
Biden’s campaign, the commission, and the RNC did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Trump’s remarks Friday.