US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has ruled out a one-on-one debate with second-place Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders, killing off a potentially high-ratings television spectacle.
The suggested debate would have sidelined likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton but given Mr Sanders a huge platform ahead of California's June 7 primary.
Trump is afraid of Sanders because a debate would show Sanders to be a compelling candidate against him. Sanders is able to articulate policy positions that align with the values of the American voters without being condescending. His ordinariness would contrast strongly with Trump's garishness.
If this debate ran before the California and New Jersey primaries, Democratic voters would probably vote for Sanders over Hillary Clinton. This might even give Sanders a majority in the pledged delegates.
With a majority or close count in pledged delegates, the super-delegates would come under great pressure to choose Sanders. Clinton may still win the Democratic Party nomination because she has managed to give the sanction of the Democratic Party machine from whom the super-delegates are chosen.
If that were the case, then Trump would benefit from the perceived corruption of the Democratic Party nomination process, and may even attract sufficient Sanders supporters to win the Presidental Election.
Agreeing to this debate would be a high-risk strategy for Trump, as:
- Sanders has to be convincing enough for voters in the remaining primaries to vote for him over Clinton;
- Sanders has to be damaged enough by Trump so that the super-delegates choose Clinton over him;
- Sanders' supporters have to remain upset enough to vote for Trump over Clinton.
There are too many moving parts for this to work for Trump successfully.