At tonight's Republican debate, Rick Santorum announced he'll be attending Donald Trump's veterans' event on Thursday night after the undercard debate is over. Mike Huckabee said earlier in the week that he, too, will be attending the Trump event. I suppose that's one of the advantages of being relegated to the kids' table — you can have your cake (participate in the debate) and eat it (bask in the glow of Trump's alternative event), too.
Trump's decision to withdraw from Thursday's debate was only the latest escalation in a long-running feud between him and Fox News, the host of the forum. After Trump complained earlier in the week that Megyn Kelly, one of the debate's moderators, wasn't "fair" to him, Fox responded with a petulant statement mocking Trump ("a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers," the statement read in part). Trump, insulted, decided to boycott the debate, and in classic Trump fashion, arranged to hold a competing event instead.
That event, which the Trump campaign described as a "special event to benefit veterans organization," will be held at Duke University concurrent to the primetime GOP debate. While the candidates on stage at that debate will, obviously, not be able to attend the Trump event, the low-polling Republicans who have been relegated to the undercard debate do have that luxury. Two of them, Santorum and Huckabee, will be taking advantage of the opportunity.
"It's to honor the troops. It's not an endorsement of Donald Trump's candidacy," Huckabee told CNN in an interview before the debate. "I'm still running for president." He added that he "didn't have anything going on at 8:00 tonight," and so he "figured, why not?" Santorum, meanwhile, waited until the undercard debate itself to announce that he'd be dropping by the Trump event afterwards.
Much about the event is unclear, including which veterans organization it is intended to benefit. The Federalist pointed out that the website for the event is soliciting donations, but those donations go to Trump's personal non-profit foundation. This may be what prompted Jim Gilmore — yes, he is still running for president — to criticize Huckabee and Santorum's participation in the "faux veterans' event."
Aside from Trump himself, very few people know what exactly to expect from the event. Santorum and Huckabee, though, are apparently willing to take the chance.