Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, currently in second place behind former President Donald Trump in the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has made an announcement regarding the party’s first candidate debate, which will be held next month at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin..

The debate, which Fox News will host, is already controversial, as Trump has indicated he may skip it altogether because he is so far ahead in most polls.

“I’ll be there regardless. I hope everybody who’s eligible comes. I think it’s an important part of the process and I look forward to being able to be on the stage and introducing our candidacy and our vision and our leadership to a wide audience,” DeSantis said Thursday on “Fox News Tonight.”

The scheduled date for the first GOP debate is Aug. 23.

Fox News noted:

Trump, who’s the commanding front-runner in the latest GOP presidential primary polls as he makes his third straight White House run, has indicated both publicly and privately that he may skip the debate, due in part to his large lead over the rest of the field of Republican 2024 contenders.

But Trump campaign officials say the former president has yet to make any final decision on his participation in the debate. Trump’s aides have also been looking into options for an alternative event should the former president skip the debate.

The Republican National Committee is organizing all of the debates. The RNC has implemented certain criteria for candidates to qualify for the stage, including meeting both high donor thresholds and polling thresholds.

Officials from both the Trump and DeSantis camps, as well as the presidential campaigns of former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, have stated that they have successfully met the required thresholds.

Trump’s suggestion that he may skip at least the first debate did not sit well with other Republican contenders, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who lashed out at the former president over the issue last month.

During an interview on Fox & Friends, host Brian Kilmeade brought in Christie, who was beamed in from a diner in New Hampshire and saw a clip from Trump’s recent interview with Bret Baier. Trump told Baier in the interview that he didn’t feel the need to participate in the primary debates because his poll numbers were so far ahead of the other Republican candidates.

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Trump said, “Christie is, I guess, 1% or less. Many of them, Nikki Haley’s is a 2%. So why would I allow people at one and 2% and 0% to be hitting me with questions on? You know, I don’t think it’s fair.”

“Oh, it’s not fair, Brian. It’s not fair.” Christie taunted the former president, “poor Donald Trump,” likely knowing full well that the former president was more than likely watching Fox & Friends while he was speaking.

Christie then mocked Trump as “the guy who wants to be president of the United States, the guy who says that he’s the toughest person to lead this country, doesn’t want to get up in front of Republican primary voters and defend his record and make a case for the future of America.”

“Look, every Republican primary voter should have the opportunity to see all those people who qualify up on the stage debating with each other,” he continued before mentioning his website for donations.

“He can’t avoid this, Brian. It’s not fair to the Republican Party voters,” he said. “I think it’s disrespectful. He thinks he should just default to the nomination. I don’t think so. And I believe that everyone should have the right to get up there and debate who qualifies under the rules. And Donald Trump has an obligation to be up there and do it. And by the way, I think he will debate Bryan. I don’t think you’ll be able to stay away.”

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