- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump and his closest rival in the polls, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, both took to Twitter Wednesday afternoon to exchange barbs about Mr. Trump’s threat not to participate inThursday night’s debate hosted by Fox News.

Mr. Trump said he would forgo the debate yesterday evening, after Fox refused to kowtow to his demands to replace moderator Megyn Kelly and it issued a tongue-and-check press release mocking the real-estate mogul. Mr. Cruz then challenged Mr. Trump to a one-on-one debate without a moderator.

On Wednesday, Mr. Cruz tweeted: “Don’t let #DuckingDonald skip the debate. Get your #MakeTrumpDebateAgain hat today,” with a link to his website selling a white hat embroidered with those words in the same font as Mr. Trump’s own red “Make America Great Again” hat. Mr. Cruz is selling the hat for $25.

He also tweeted a survey to his followers on Wednesday asking them to sign-up if they want Mr. Trump to accept his one-on-one debate challenge. It is unknown whether voters will see Mr. Trump’s skipping the debate an act of strength, or one of weakness as Mr. Cruz is trying to portray.

Either way, Mr. Trump didn’t let Mr. Cruz’s tweets go unanswered.

“Even though I beat him in the first six debates, especially the last one, Ted Cruz wants to debate me again. Can we do it in Canada?” Mr. Trump tweeted on Wednesday, after Mr. Cruz’s statements.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager Cory Lewandowski, in an interview, left the door open for Mr. Trump’s participation in Thursday night’s debate, using less absolute wording as the campaign did the night prior.

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” he was asked if there was anyway Mr. Trump would do the debate.

Mr. Lewandowski replied: “I just don’t think so. What you have with Mr. Trump, that you have a clear leader. A person who he says at best is not going to be toyed with. A person who understands when a bad deal is in front of him and is ready to walk away from a bad deal. Something that this country should be able to do.”

Mr. Lewandowski continued without Mr. Trump’s participation, “I just don’t see in any way where Fox is going to have a successful debate now, when you got the clear G.O.P. front-runner who has decided to walk away from this debate because he can’t be treated fairly at the debate stage. Maybe Fox was going to have a 20- or 25-million person debate. But without Mr. Trump’s participation, I think they may have a one- or two-million person debate.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Lewandowski said Mr. Trump would definitely not be there.

• Kelly Riddell can be reached at kriddell@washingtontimes.com.

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