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Trump Isn’t the First Candidate to Refuse to Debate

Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Speaks At Liberty University ConvocationPresidential Candidate Donald Trump Speaks At Liberty University Convocation
Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during a Liberty University Convocation in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. Photograph by Drew Angerer — Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Tuesday evening, Donald Trump did what he does best—make a spectacle of himself while not doing much of anything. The New York businessman and Republican presidential favorite announced that he would be skipping the Fox News debate scheduled for Thursday, citing the perceived unfairness of moderator Megyn Kelly.

Whatever Trump’s strategy is here—and some are suggesting that ultimately he will attend the debate, and that this is just a tactic to try to get Fox News to capitulate to his demands that Kelly be removed as a moderator—he’s far from the first candidate to refuse to debate.

One of Trump’s challengers, John Kasich, didn’t debate his Democratic opponent in his run for reelection as governor of Ohio in 2014. Both sides blamed each other. Though with Kasich leading heavily on the polls, he was the only one with something to lose by debating.

Former Texas governor and two-time presidential hopeful Rick Perry refused to debate in his 2010 race for another term—though perhaps Mr. Oops could have used the practice.

Even presidential races have had their fair share of debate shenanigans. When he was running for an unprecedented third term in 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt refused to debate Wendell Wilkie. In 1980, one debate was cancelled and one didn’t feature incumbent Jimmy Carter because of a disagreement with Republican challenger Ronald Reagan over whether to include a third party candidate.

So, Trump’s gambit may or may not come to fruition, and it may or may not resonate with voters. But it is hardly original.