Elections

Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum will join Trump non-debate event

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives on stage before speaking during a campaign stop on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, in Gilbert, S.C.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives on stage before speaking during a campaign stop on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, in Gilbert, S.C. AP

Donald Trump – who is boycotting Thursday night’s Fox News debate in a spat with the network – will have company: fellow Republican rivals Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum say they plan to attend Trump’s event after they participate in the earlier debate.

“I’m delighted to join with Donald Trump in an effort to salute veterans and, you know what, I didn’t have anything going on at 8:00 tonight,” Huckabee joked to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Huckabee, who didn’t make the cut for the prime-time debate, said his appearance wouldn’t be an endorsement of Trump’s candidacy. “I’m still running for president,” he said.

But he said he wanted to show veterans support . He said he didn’t talk with Trump, but there had been “conversations over the past day or so and we said we’d love to come and be part of an event that honors our veterans. They’re some of the most under-appreciated, under-supported people in the country.”

Trump hastily pulled the event together after making good Tuesday night on his threats to pull out of the debate over the network’s refusal to drop anchor Megyn Kelly as one of the moderators. Trump has been feuding with Kelly and Fox since the Republicans’ August debate, when Kelly asked Trump about derogatory comments he’s made about women. An annoyed Trump later said Kelly had had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

He told reporters at a news conference Tuesday that he considered Kelly a “third rate reporter” but that a “childish” Fox statement mocking him was the last straw.

Rick Santorum, another GOP rival participating in the undercard debate, told the Laura Ingraham Show that he “certainly would attend to support the troops.

Trump’s gambit that voters will forgive him for skipping the debate and aiding veterans has resulted in several stabs at one-upmanship.

Trump’s premier antagonist, Ted Cruz, has challenged Trump to debate one on one, and two super PACS backing Trump offered him a “a truly fantastic deal, pledging to donate $1.5 million to charities committed to helping veterans if Mr. Trump agrees to debate Senator Cruz in Iowa.”

Lesley Clark: 202-383-6054, @lesleyclark

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