Fox News host Sean Hannity assures Donald Trump that he’ll attend The Newsmax ION Television 2012 Presidential Debate that Trump will moderate Dec. 27 in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I’ll be there,” Hannity told Trump during the real estate mogul’s appearance on Hannity’s TV show Monday night.
The host made the comment as the pair discussed the Republican candidates and the debate, which will be the final chance for the top GOP presidential candidates to square off face to face before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3.
Rep. Ron Paul has chosen not to participate in the debate, and Hannity asked Trump to respond to the Texas Republican’s recent assertion that the billionaire “doesn’t like to be challenged.”
“I don’t know what he means by that,” Trump replied. “I’m challenged all the time, and I respond. Unlike a lot of people, I respond. Look, Ron Paul has zero chance — zero — of getting elected or getting the nomination. He’ll do OK in Iowa, and after Iowa, he’ll fade into oblivion.”
Trump also commented on the candidacy of Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who also declined the invitation to the debate.
“Huntsman’s another one,” Trump told Hannity. “He called my office — I don’t know if you know this — and wanted a meeting. I didn’t give it to him. Maybe I should have; I didn’t give it to him. But he wanted to come up and see me.
“And then I see him in a debate saying, ‘Unlike you people, I didn’t go and see Donald Trump.’”
Trump said he is glad that Huntsman and Paul will not attend the debate, “because then I can sort of focus on people that really have a chance of winning, and you have some very good people, and people are going to be at that debate. And I’ll tell you, it will get great ratings.”
One of the participants will be former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who appears to have a substantial lead now in several key primary states. Gingrich and Trump met in New York Monday, after which Gingrich said he is glad that Trump will moderate the debate.
“I thought it was great when he agreed to do it,” Gingrich said. “I think it’s great that Newsmax is helping to launch it. It’s part of the process by which America governs itself.”
Other highlights from Hannity’s exclusive interview with Trump:
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- Trump called Gingrich’s sudden rise in the polls “amazing,” adding: “He’s really shown he’s a rocket ship. I’ve never seen anything like this, where he started so negatively.”
- Trump said he wishes President Barack Obama were a great president, and initially thought he would be “a great cheerleader for the country.” Instead, he said, Obama “turned out to be a negative force, a very, very negative force with class warfare and everything else that’s going on, and I’m really surprised and disappointed at that.”
- He credited Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with outstanding debate performances. “I think Romney was great, I think Newt was great. I mean, they were the two stars, in a sense, although [Minnesota Rep.] Michele Bachmann did very well in the debates, in all fairness, and so did [former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick] Santorum,” said Trump.
- He said he likes Texas Gov. Rick Perry but said Perry conceded he had not done that well in the earlier debates. “Rick Perry told me it was not his thing,” Trump said.
- Asked for his take on recent remarks by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie describing Obama as a bystander in the supercommittee negotiations, Trump said: “I thought they were true, I thought they were 100 percent. I thought this [supercommittee] is a disgrace. That it was formed is the most disgraceful thing. Because you’re supposed to be a leader, you’re supposed to get those people in a room and get a deal, not just form a committee that can’t form a deal, and I thought Chris Christie’s statement was great.”
- The president’s healthcare reforms are “a disaster,” he said, noting that he has friends who are closing their businesses because they cannot afford the added costs of the new entitlement. “These are people who have been in business 40 years, have nice middle-sized and even small businesses. They’re closing up their business,” he said.
- Trump reiterated his objection to the way U.S. leaders have negotiated international trade and other agreements, saying other nations “look at us like a bunch of dopes. A bunch of patsies. And every country makes money with us.”
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