Republican former Rep. Adam Kinzinger says Donald Trump is skipping Wednesday’s GOP primary debate in part because he’s afraid of going up against former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“Donald Trump is a coward. He’s scared to death of Chris Christie,” said Kinzinger, now a senior CNN political commentator, on “The Situation Room.” “I think Chris Christie is gonna wipe the floor with him, and I think that’s what he’s afraid of.”
Kinzinger predicted that Christie, one of the only Republican presidential candidates willing to criticize Trump, is going to really “bring the show and point out the cowardice of Donald Trump.”
The former lawmaker from Illinois also called out Trump’s decision to dodge the debate stage after losing the presidency in 2020 for the Republican Party.
“The Republicans have done nothing but lose since Donald Trump, and so I think if he’s gonna ask for their vote, he needs to come in front of them again and explain why, this time, instead of being a loser, he’ll be a winner. But he’s not gonna do it,” he said.
Other commentators have speculated similarly. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough last week said Trump “will not have the guts to go or the nerve to go on stage with Chris Christie anywhere,” pointing to the latter’s record as a “ruthless” prosecutor.
However, Joe Walsh, a former congressman from Illinois who left the Republican Party, disputed Kinzinger’s assessment.
“I agree with my friend Adam Kinzinger that Donald Trump is a coward. Completely. But Trump isn’t afraid of Chris Christie. Not at all. Christie is no threat to Trump, and Trump knows it,” he posted on X, the platform formerly called Twitter.
“Trump isn’t skipping the debate bcuz he’s afraid. He’s skipping the debate bcuz he has to be THE story. And he thinks he’ll be a much bigger story if he’s not there,” Walsh wrote.
Trump announced on Sunday that he would not attend Wednesday’s debate or other ones.
“The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!”
Several news outlets reported that Trump has taped an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, which will air as debate counterprogramming.
Trump is polling miles ahead of his nearest rivals in the 2024 race. Christie, a onetime Trump ally turned fierce critic, has the backing of about 3% of respondents, according to RealClearPolitics’ average of polling data.