“Let them debate so I can see who I MIGHT consider for Vice President!”
Currently, there are seven candidates who qualified for the initial debate: Trump himself, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. Initially, Trump was unsure about participating in the debate because he was worried about biased moderators and media hostility. Fox News had tried to undermine him in both elections, including when Megyn Kelly “asked” Trump about his off-color tweets about women in 2016, which seemed more like an accusation; and Chris Wallace’s obvious favoritism towards Biden in 2020.
Trump is leading the GOP field by a wide margin, while DeSantis’ popularity has been declining without any assistance from Trump. Currently, it appears to be Trump’s best play to let DeSantis continue to fall in the polls on his own. When it becomes clear that DeSantis is no longer a strong contender, other candidates are likely to drop out too. Many of them might eventually throw their support behind Trump as they head into the 2024 election.