On Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump confirmed that he would not sit out two debates in a row, conceding that his boycott of the Fox News debate in Iowa last week could have been what caused him to come second in the state's caucuses. It will be the first time the GOP candidates, including Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, will come face-to-face since the caucuses. But Trump's presence at the debate Saturday, which will take place at St. Anselm’s College Institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire, hasn't always been a given. And a decision to acquiesce to demands from Trump's camp by ABC News may have been a deciding factor for the mogul-turned-politician.
However, Trump's participation in the debate is vital, with New Hampshire voters scheduled to head to the polls for their primary election just three days afterward. Currently, Trump is holding a substantial lead in the state's polls, but momentum gained by his rivals in Iowa could turn the voters there off him.
When asked Wednesday on MSNBC's Morning Joe if he planned to attend the next Republican debate, Trump said simply, "I will, I will," before reiterating his much-touted claim that "some people" say he's won every debate. A feud with Fox News resulted in Trump pulling out of the most recent debate at a day or two before, limiting his last-minute exposure to undecided voters prior to the caucuses.
Trump admitted that his campaign in Iowa may have suffered from his decision to sit out the debate, but he said that he had no regrets:
You know I was not treated properly by Fox. You know with their memo and I said, 'Look, I'm not going to do it.' And, you know, I'm happy I didn't, because I raised $6 million for the vets. I had something that night, I had basically a fundraiser for the vets and in a period of one hour we raised $6 million. So I was really happy with that. And frankly, I don't think I would have given up first vs. second and not give the vets $6 million. Finishing second and giving them $6 million dollars was OK for me, but I might have been hurt a little bit by not being at the debates.
Trump also emphasized his campaign's "record-breaking number of votes" in Iowa (second only to Cruz) in an attempt to downplay media coverage of his second-place rank in the caucus on Morning Joe. The real estate mogul criticized the media for portraying Sen. Marco Rubio's third-place rank as a win and his own second-place performance as a loss. It's a topic he is likely going to bring up again and again when he meets Rubio and Cruz in Saturday's debate.
With his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Trump is guaranteed to qualify for the debate. Qualification criteria released by ABC News included placing "among the top three candidates ... in the Iowa GOP caucuses," along with placing within the top six candidates in an average of New Hampshire or national polls conducted after Jan. 1.
New Hampshire is likely to be a key state for Trump's campaign, which suffers from electability issues and a general sense of confusion when it comes to his stance on the issues. If the New Hampshire primary is expected to further shake up (or in the GOP's case, narrow down) the 2016 presidential playing field, then the candidates need to have all their cards on the table during ABC News' upcoming debate. Trump maybe more so, given his tight race with Rubio in Iowa.