The Republican presidential candidates will face off Thursday night at the Fox News/Google debate in Des Moines, their final showdown before the Iowa caucuses.
One organization, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, pledged to refuse any funds that Trump may try to donate from his Iowa event, to be held at Drake University at the same time the Republican frontrunner was originally scheduled to appear on Fox News' debate main stage. He cited "unfair" treatment from debate host Fox News as his reason for skipping the contest and holding a rally instead.
"It's not an endorsement of Donald Trump's candidacy; I'm still running for president", Huckabee assured CNN, before quipping: "You know what, I didn't have anything going on at 8 o'clock tonight".
If Trump doesn't show up, that could provide an opening for the other candidates who have struggled to get a word in edgewise, in a race dominated by the reality-TV-trained showman. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.
"It gives us more time at the microphone and more time to talk about answers to substantive issues that Iowa voters are demanding right now", said David Kochel, a senior adviser to Republican candidate Jeb Bush. In Iowa, however, polls suggest he's locked in a tight race with Texas Sen.
There's a slight whiff of desperation encircling Ted Cruz, like cologne from three days ago that he hasn't washed off. At the beginning of January, he seemed to be ascendant in Iowa, having taken a four-point lead over Donald Trump in the polling averages.
But Fox shot down Trump's claim in a statement. "He's a coward. I think it will come back and bite him". "He's betting on him making a bigger splash". The candidate demanded that Fox replace moderator Megyn Kelly, because he thinks she asked unfair questions in a past debate and because she has angered him with commentary since then. He's preferred to make his case to potential voters in national television interviews and on Twitter, and has often faded into the background in the debates. He vowed to not participate in the debate after Fox released a scathing statement in response to his concerns about moderator Megyn Kelly not treating him fairly. Next among the 30 Republican candidates listed on the official New Hampshire ballot are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 6 percent; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, 5 percent; businesswoman Carly Fiorina, 4 percent; and Sen. Rand Paul, who was relegated to the undercard event in the last debate.
In a hypothetical general election matchup with Trump, 10 percent of New Hampshire Republican primary voters said they would vote for Hillary Clinton and another 10 percent said they would pick Bloomberg.
While there were rumors that the businessman might ditch Thursday's debate, possibly to avoid Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, they were confirmed last night when the presidential hopeful officially backed out.