Donald Trump may be flirting with ditching debates against his GOP primary opponents, but the headline-hungry former reality television star’s self-absorption won’t allow it, Chris Christie said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
“His ego will not permit him not to be on that stage,” said Christie, a former Trump ally-turned-critic who most recently called him a “puppet of Putin” after his CNN town hall appearance in New Hampshire on Wednesday.
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When anchor Jonathan Karl reminded the former New Jersey governor that in 2016, the then-candidate didn’t show at the final GOP primary debate before the Iowa caucuses, Christie admitted he did so “petulantly.” (At the time, Trump had been complaining about one of the moderators, then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly, ever since she confronted him on his misogyny in another debate months prior.)
“In the end, though, he was at every other debate because he believes–I can tell you this, from being the guy who prepped him for debates in ’16 and in ’20–he believes he will win every debate he is in,” Christie said. “And that ego part of him will prevent him from skipping.”
In 2019, Trump weighed dodging the following year’s presidential debates, but ended up participating in all three–one of which occurred three days after he tested positive for COVID-19, according to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ memoir. (Christie later blamed Trump for infecting him with the virus.)
Earlier this month, Christie claimed that Trump fears debating others in his party.
“I’m sorry to see that Donald Trump feels like if he gets on the stage, he’s at risk of losing his lead,” he told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “If, in fact, his ideas are so great, if his leadership is so outstanding, then his lead will only increase if he gets on the stage, not decrease.”
An Emerson College Poll from late April found Trump’s support at 62 percent–46 points ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has yet to announce whether or not he’s running. Trump referenced his polling advantage in a Truth Social post around that time:
“When you’re leading by seemingly insurmountable numbers, and you have hostile Networks with angry, TRUMP & MAGA hating anchors asking the ‘questions,’ why subject yourself to being libeled and abused?”
Christie added that Trump is “afraid to get on the stage against people who are serious.”
The first GOP debate is scheduled for August in Milwaukee.
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