Will Donald Trump show up to the Fox News debate?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 26, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But probably I won't be doing the debate. I'm going to have something else in Iowa. We'll do something where we raise money for the veterans and the wounded warriors. We're going to do something simultaneously with the debate, but most likely I'm not going to do the debate. I didn't like the fact that they sent out press releases toying, talking about Putin and playing games. I don't know what games Roger Ailes is playing, but what's wrong over there. Something is wrong.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, we have heard something like this before. But Donald Trump saying he probably won't do the debate.

Let's look at the latest poll out, Quinnipiac out with a poll today saying that he is up, and up pretty substantially. This is Quinnipiac poll that's actually very tight, almost tied. Then you have the Quinnipiac, who wouldn't you vote for, never support. And there you see Jeb Bush and Donald Trump in that Quinnipiac poll. But the RCP average of polls, this is all the recent polls, still shows Donald Trump with a lead here in Iowa.

Now, as far as the announcement goes, this is just an announcement of who qualified to make the stage. We've done it before, and we do it regularly to announce the polls that the people were going to be on the top stage in the undercard debate.

So let's start there and bring in our panel from Washington, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, David Gregory, former moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press" and author of the book "How's your Faith?" and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

OK, Steve, what about this? Do you think he won't show up Thursday?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It is a good question. He certainly doesn't look like the tough guy that he's run as for the past six months, accusing Roger Ailes of playing games. I would just say that Roger Ailes is treating him with the seriousness and respect that Trump deserves. He's flirted several times before with not attending a debate. He has threatened not to show up at a debate. He shows up every time. He suggests and he intimated things about Megyn Kelly in his own remarks that I thought were very untoward. So who is to blame Roger Ailes for sticking up for Megyn Kelly? And why don't we have a serious debate without the clown shown. I think that's Trump's problem right now. It's been his problem for six months.

And look, you can make an argument that it would be in his benefit not to show up. He holds his own event. It will get lots of media attention. He doesn't to have face hard attention, which is something he's not done well with in the past. So you can see where he would come up with the rationale for it.

BAIER: But David, politically, if that happens, and obviously as I said in the interview we hope it doesn't. We'll have a podium for him and we'll all be there. But if it happens politically, how does that play out?

DAVID GREGORY, AUTHOR OF 'HOW'S YOUR FAITH?': Well, I think this isn't homeroom. It is a presidential contest. And if Donald Trump wants to focus on the big prize here, which is not getting into a shoving contest with Roger Ailes, who programs an entire network at will whether Trump is president or not, then he ought to focus on what he needs right now, which is to turn out caucus-goers, try to win Iowa and actually march towards the nomination which apparently he is in a pretty strong position to do because FOX is obviously in a position to leave his podium where it is and to raise publicly some of the questions that I'm sure you and your colleagues have for him and that the other candidates would like to press him on.

Donald Trump, by the way, said most likely he won't be there. He loves to make a deal. I'm sure there is a deal to be done here which doesn't involve FOX backing down. So my hunch is he's going to there. Debates over debates are stupid. I think he probably wants to keep his eye on the prize, which is how he gets people out to caucus for him.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: But I think the prize is Trump defines it always is being the center of attention. This, whether calculated or not, and I think it most likely is, is going to concentrate all the attention, all the discussion between now and the time you go on the air Thursday at 9:00 on whether he is going to show up or not. So between now and then he's the story, which is what he's managed to do brilliantly, I think, since June, always creating new storylines. The genius of a reality TV show is that it has to be constantly changing. You can't have the same storyline week after week or the show dies. He can't just go in for 14 years. He keeps changing the story. When he makes an outrageous statement and then he's waiting for incoming he makes another outrageous statement so that all the attention is focused on the second. He's used that, I think, again, brilliantly for six months to maneuver himself at the top. And I suspect in the end he'll make some concession. He'll get, say, a donation for Wounded Warriors so it makes him look magnanimous. But I think as of now he's succeeding in doing what he wants, which is to make him the center of all attention all the time.

BAIER: Let me be clear. With or without Donald Trump there will be a debate Thursday night, an undercard and a primetime debate at 9:00 p.m.

All right, moving on to another thing that's clear, that Jeb Bush and his super PAC are attacking Marco Rubio constantly. Out now, Right to Rise with a new ad about credit cards. Take a listen.


NARRATOR: Car repairs, some improvements, a family trip, it's not easy to afford them. What did Marco Rubio do? He put $22,000 in personal expenses on the Republican Party credit card.


BAIER: OK, I want, to be fair, play the response back in November. This had been asked about numerous, numerous times to Senator Rubio. This is how he responded to that charge about credit cards back in Florida.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The overwhelming majority of the expenses on that card that was secured under my personal credit were for political uses. And any time there was a personal expense I paid for it. The party never did. This is an issue we dealt with back in 2010 when Charlie Crist tried to raise it.


BAIER: Steve, it is amazing to see this whole thing develop. You look at those polls. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz way up ahead, and this is where the super PAC is investing.

HAYES: Yes, it is extraordinary. The super PAC and its defenders would say our job is not to protect the viability of Marco Rubio running. It is to get Jeb Bush and put him in the best position to be elected. But this is going thermonuclear. I mean, this is an attack that I think goes well beyond the facts that we have about the credit card itself. The "Washington Post" fact checker has basically shrugged this off. Jeb Bush urged Marco Rubio to run after this whole credit card question was raised. In 2012 he pushed Mitt Romney to take Marco Rubio as his running mate despite knowing everything that we know about the credit card. So it is very odd that the super PAC would push this line of attack on Marco Rubio given the enthusiasm that Jeb Bush has shown for Rubio while we've known all about these credit cards.

GREGORY: It is also this question of timing. If you want to take Rubio on at some point because you think you actually have a shot and you're Jeb Bush, there is time to do that. But if you look at the polling, a majority of the Republican electorate is for not Trump or for Cruz. Why not train your fire there? And obviously Bush has gone after Trump some. But the idea, he is kind of waiting for the establishment lane to get its time in the sun, that may not even happen. There may be no establishment lane, and all he's done is hurt Rubio instead of going for the guys who are winning.

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