Moments after Fox News announced the lineup for Thursday’s Republican debate, Donald J. Trump said Tuesday it is pretty “irrevocable” that he will skip the event, which takes place just days before the Iowa caucuses.
“Let’s see how much money Fox is going to make on the debate without me,” Mr. Trump said at a press conference here, where he continued to attack Megyn Kelly and the crew at Fox News, with whom he sparred at an earlier debate.
“It’s time that somebody plays grownup,” he said. Just after Mr. Trump started speaking, his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, confirmed that he will not be attending the debate, saying, “He will not be participating in the Fox News debate on Thursday” and that “it’s not under negotiation.”
Mr. Trump’s absence would leave the main debate stage without the candidate who leads in national polls and has been a big ratings draw for past debates. Mr. Trump has threatened in the past to skip debates, but his remarks Tuesday night were his strongest statement yet that he would not participate.
Mr. Trump made his remarks right after the Fox News debate moderator Bret Baier announced the debate lineup on the program “Special Report.”
One of Mr. Trump’s rivals, Senator Rand Paul, will rejoin the top tier of candidates on the stage for Thursday’s event, Fox News said, meaning eight candidates qualified to share the stage for the prime-time debate. Mr. Trump was to stand in the middle since he leads in polls nationally and in New Hampshire, and he is battling for the lead in Iowa polls against Senator Ted Cruz.
For Mr. Paul, who chose not to participate in the undercard debate earlier this month after failing to make the cut for the later debate, the return to the main stage reflects a recent rise in his poll numbers, particularly in New Hampshire.
His campaign sought to capitalize on the good news, fundraising on Twitter after his inclusion was announced on Fox News.
And Jim Gilmore, the Republican presidential candidate who has failed to qualify for the undercard debate every time except during Fox News’s first debate, will return to the debate stage, participating in the earlier debate with Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.