Boycotting the presidential debate for the fifth consecutive time, former United States president and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump instead attended a town hall in Iowa.
The event, streamed by Fox News, ran parallel to the fifth primary debate across town on Wednesday night where aspiring presidential contenders Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley faced off on issues such as US support for Israel and abortion laws in the country.
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Trump is a frontrunner for the elections scheduled to take place in November 2024 and has repeatedly skipped presidential debates, saying that the party should focus on the general elections instead. Critics also see this as a strategy to draw viewers away from his rivals’ events.
Fox News held town halls with Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley in the past week. But Trump demanded that his town hall air at the same time as the presidential debate.
Here are three key takeaways from Trump’s town hall.
Trump on his opponents
Trump attempted to seem unbothered by his opponents in the political world while also criticising Haley.
In his campaign over recent weeks, Trump has spoken of “retribution” for his political enemies if he returns to power. Asked about it on Wednesday, Trump said, “The ultimate retribution is success.”
He mocked former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s exit from the race just before the debate between Haley and DeSantis.
“Nobody cared too much about that,” Trump said about Christie’s importance in the run.
He did, however, endorse Christie’s criticism of Haley. In what appears to have been a hot mic moment, Christie was heard saying that Haley would “get smoked” in the race.
“I know her very well, and I happen to believe that Chris Christie is right”, Trump said. “One of the few things he’s been right about”, he added, as the crowd laughed.
Trump boasted about his role in ending Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that had legalised abortion nationally until it was overturned in June 2022, but said that he was in favour of exceptions to the ban on abortion.
Trump explained that such a “concession” would be necessary to win elections.
“You have to win elections,” Trump also said. “Otherwise, you’re going to be back where you were, and you can’t let that ever happen again. You got to win elections.”
Trump did not specify what such concessions would entail but listed exceptions such as cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at stake.
Trump hints at his vice president choice
When asked about his selection of a vice presidential running mate, Trump “I know who it’s going to be,” but declined to provide any name.
His senior campaign advisers Chris LaCivita and Jason Miller told reporters after the town hall that they have not discussed the selection in great detail, but that Trump had talked about the qualities he wants in his vice president.
The two said that names had not been explicitly discussed in those talks and they did not elaborate on what those qualities were.
“I’m sure when that time comes, everybody will know who it is,” said LaCivita.