Billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump won't be joining his fellow GOP presidential candidates at Fox News's Thursday night debate in Des Moines, Iowa. But two other Republicans will be there -- and one, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, will participate in a debate for first time since August.
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Trump's campaign said "Roger Ailes and FOX News think they can toy with him, but Mr. Trump doesn’t play games."
"Mr. Trump knows when to walk away."
If he does not participate, Trump will become the first prominent Republican contender not appear at a pre-Iowa caucus debate since Ronald Reagan declined to do so in 1980. George H.W. Bush won the Iowa caucus that year.
Trump objected to Fox naming news anchor Megyn Kelly as one of three debate moderators. The exchange between Trump and Kelly
in the first GOP debate in Cleveland on August 6th, about the candidate's unflattering descriptions of women, eventually escalated into a running battle on social media.
Fox has said the debate will go on with or without Mr. Trump. For his part, Trump's campaign said he will "instead host an event in Iowa to raise money for the Veterans and Wounded Warriors."
The prime time debate will feature a returning face. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, whose poll numbers dipped below the threshold necessary to appear on the main stage at the Charleston debate on January 14 -- leading him to refuse to participate at all -- will return for the prime time debate.
Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore will be making his first debate appearance since the opening round on August 6th. Gilmore, whose campaign has lagged both in the polls and in fundraising, will appear in the undercard debate alongside former Hewlitt Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Gilmore's campaign issued a statement to AMI Newswire about his inclusion in the 7 P.M. event.
"I am glad Fox News has decided to allow the voters to hear from the only veteran in the race for the presidency," Gilmore said.
"I look forward to being able to present my views on national security, rebuilding the economy and protecting and preserving the 2nd Amendment rights of Americans."