In an unprecedented move, President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday he would not appear at the Republican Presidential debate in Iowa, instead opting to hold a competing town hall on the same night.
Trump’s decision to ignore the debate further splits the already divided Republican party as the president reverts to a strategy of not participating in certain debates during the election cycle.
“I will not be participating in the Iowa debate,” Trump tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “Rather, Focus on the many campaigns that I am doing in order to Make America Great Again!”
He announced he would instead participate in a town hall hosted by Fox News. The network had initially planned the town hall, which it described as “an exclusive evening of unfiltered debate and discussion,” to air in the same time slot as the debate it was co-hosting with CNN.
Trump’s decision furthers the growing rift between moderates and establishment Republicans, who are largely against the president, and his base, who view his actions outside of the mainstream as symbolic of his commitment to enact meaningful change.
While the Republican Party has been unified in its condemnation of the president and the events of the past three years, Trump’s decision to forgo the debate and hold a competing town hall highlights the deep divide between party factions.
Trump’s decision to hold a competing town hall comes as the Iowa caucuses draw nearer. The president’s strategy indicates that he is looking to shore up support from his base ahead of the first-in-the-nation primary, which could decide the future path of the rest of the Republican nomination process.