CLAIM: Republican primary presidential candidate Chris Christie claimed former President Donald Trump did not attend Wednesday’s debate because he was afraid of debating not because he has a massive lead in the polls.
VERDICT: FALSE. Trump repeatedly stated he would not attend the debate due to his exceedingly large polling lead. “Why would I allow people at one or two percent and zero percent to be hitting me with questions all night?” he asked in an interview in June with Fox News.
“I want to look at a camera right now and tell you, Donald, I know you’re watching,” Christie stated on the debate stage. “You can’t help yourself. I know you’re watching. Okay. And you’re not here tonight, not because of polls, and not because of your indictments. You’re not here tonight because you’re afraid of being on the stage and defending your record.”
“You’re ducking these things. And let me tell you what’s going to happen. You keep doing that. No one up here is gonna call you Donald Trump anymore. We’re gonna call you Donald Duck,” he said, echoing Hillary Clinton’s “Donald Duck” line.
Trump is the top choice of 59 percent of GOP primary voters — up 11 percentage points since April, a Wall Street Journal poll revealed in September. A recent Economist/YouGov poll found Trump holds a 37-point lead in the Republican primary race.
“The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had,” Trump wrote on Truth Social in August. “I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!”
Instead of attending Wednesday’s debate, Trump spoke at an auto parts manufacturing plant, a non-union shop, according to the AFL-CIO. He pointed to his lead in the polls and slammed the primary candidates as incompetent.
“We’re competing with the job candidates. They’re all running for a job,” Trump said. “They’re all job candidates. They’ll do anything, Secretary of something. They even say VP. Has anybody seen a VP anywhere?”
Follow Wendell Husebø on Twitter @WendellHusebø. He is the author of Politics of Slave Morality.