Donald Trump’s upcoming Iowa Republican debate will be short at least one candidate, after Jon Huntsman confirmed that he’ll be politely declining an invitation to take part. And Huntsman’s decision highlights a tricky dilemma facing the GOP field as they contemplate Trump’s late December event.
On the one hand, the event is a chance to cosy up to Trump and perhaps even secure his endorsement. After all, Trump is inexplicably popular among many Republicans. At the same time, he’s not seen in a good light by everyone, and there’s just a slight danger that winning Trump’s respect – and taking part in his debate – could have a negative impact on a candidate’s performance outside of the traditional GOP base.
It’s clear where Huntsman stands. He’s clearly gambling that he can gain more by focusing on New Hampshire and leaving Trump to do his own thing. But will that strategy work? Huntsman has a long of ground to make up, since he’s one of the few GOP candidates to have failed to really trouble Mitt Romney at any point. Skipping the Trump debate might help Huntsman to some extent. But it might not save his campaign.