White House hopeful optimistic Trump will make last-minute decision to join first GOP debate

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Republican presidential candidate Mike Pence said he’s still hopeful that former President Donald Trump will appear at the GOP’s first 2024 presidential debate this week. 

‘My hope is when we get to that debate stage, and I’m still kind of hoping maybe [Trump will] come, is that we could really have a debate about the challenges facing the American people,’ Trump’s former vice president said Sunday morning.

Pence said a couple of times during his interview on ABC’s ‘This Week’ that he hopes the former president joins the debate stage, arguing that he and other candidates are ready to ‘square off, answer the tough questions.’

‘I served alongside the president for a long time, and one thing I realized about him is: It’s not over till it’s over. I’m actually still hoping he shows up,’ Pence said again of hoping Trump makes an appearance on Wednesday. 

Fox News is set to air the first Republican primary debate Wednesday in Milwaukee, which will be hosted by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum. Trump has yet to confirm whether he will attend the GOP debate Wednesday.

Regardless of whether Trump joins his Republican primary challengers, the former vice president said he will stand out in the field by being himself. 

‘I’ve had a little bit of experience with nationally televised debates, but it’s different with a group on stage. And, look, I’m just going to be me,’ Pence said in response to the ABC News anchor when asked how he intends to ‘break through on that debate stage.’

‘I feel like I’ve been preparing for this first Republican presidential debate my whole life. And frankly, as [former second lady Karen Pence] and I have traveled all across the country, one of the things we’ve come to realize is that I’m well known, but I’m not known well,’ Pence added.

The former vice president said many Americans know his name and identify him as the ‘loyal vice president who fought alongside President Trump until the day came that my oath to the Constitution required me to stand apart.’

He said voters should also know his history as a ‘House conservative leader fighting big spenders in my own party’ and a ‘conservative governor showing you can balance budgets and cut taxes and expand educational choice.’

‘One of my goals in that debate is for the American people, Republican primary voters, to get to know me in a little bit broader context and demonstrate the kind of leadership that we bring to this,’ Pence said.

The first debate is to kick off Aug. 23 at 9 p.m. ET and air across FOX News Media’s platforms. In addition to Trump and Pence, GOP candidates Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, Vivek Ramaswamy and Doug Burgum have all qualified to take part in the debate.

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