GOP candidates want Trump surrogates banned from Fox News debate spin room in his absence

As Republican candidates ready themselves for the first primary debate of the 2024 election season, some of their staffers are reportedly pushing to ban surrogates for Donald Trump from the event’s spin room.

With the former president saying that he will not participate in the primary debates given his lead in the polls, he will be represented in Milwaukee on Wednesday night by his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr and his son’s fiancée Kimberly Guilfoyle in addition to a number of other close allies who are also planning to attend.

The Messenger reports that there has been a move by campaign staffers of some other candidates to bar Trump representatives from monopolising the spin room at the Fox News-hosted event arranged by the Republican National Committee.

It is unclear how successful they might be given there is nothing explicit in the debate rules to stop them from making themselves available to the media backstage.

However, representatives of the candidates who will actually be on stage are unhappy, arguing that if the former president is not participating in the debate then he should not be allowed surrogates to speak on his behalf.

“If we didn’t agree to the RNC rules, I wouldn’t be let in the room, so why should they?” one staffer told The Messenger.

Among those expected to attend in addition to Mr Trump Jr and Ms Guilfoyle are Ohio Senator JD Vance, former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, Georgia Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Florida reps Matt Gaetz and Byron Donalds.

An adviser to one rival candidate called the possibility of Mr Trump not showing up as “bulls***, total lunacy”.

“The best part is the irony that the dude doesn’t have the stones to show up but he’s going to send Matt Gaetz,” they added.

A Trump adviser, who was not authorised to speak on the record, told The Messenger: These Republican leaders are going to be banned from the spin room because some also-rans’ feelings are hurt that Trump is winning? Good luck.”

The ultimate decision as to who gets into the spin room actually lies with the broadcasters and not specifically Fox News or the RNC.

A Republican official explained that it is up to each network who receives passes to the room, as it is the media organisations who have paid for the space at the venue.

While some staffers for candidates have been discussing the best way in which to lobby Fox News to stop Trump allies from swamping the airwaves, others have not engaged, seeing it as a losing issue.

Instead of appearing beside the other contenders for the party’s nomination, the former president will instead give an interview online to former Fox News presenter Tucker Carlson.

Over the weekend in a post on Truth Social, Mr Trump appeared to rule out participating in any of the debates scheduled for the primary season.

He wrote: “The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had, with Energy Independence, Strong Borders & Military, Biggest EVER Tax & Regulation Cuts, No Inflation, Strongest Economy in History, & much more. I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!”

Those candidates who have met the criteria to appear at the first debate are Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Tim Scott, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.

The second will take place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California on 27 September.

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