After Hillary Clinton declined to debate Bernie Sanders this week before the June 7 California primary, Donald Trump told Jimmy Kimmel on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live that he would be willing to debate Bernie Sanders, for a price. Trump said since the debate would get such high ratings, he would take that money and give it to charity.
Sanders responded shortly after with a tweet, writing:
Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 26, 2016
This development occurred about the same time as the Public Policy Institute of California released data showing that Sanders and Clinton are polling two percentage points away from each other at 46% and 44%, with Sanders trailing.
No official or final details on when or where or if the debate will actually take place have been announced. This would be the first time in modern U.S. history that this type of debate would occur in the primary stage of a presidential election, and acts as its own snub to Hillary Clinton by both Sanders and Trump.
Trump’s first debate with a candidate from an opposing party would be with Sanders and not the presumptive Democratic nominee. It also gives him a chance to speak to Sanders’ supporters who may be looking outside the Democratic Party for a candidate come November.
If the debate actually happens, Sanders would get a boost in media attention ahead of the California Democratic primary, where there was a huge last-minute surge in voter registration and registration updates, particularly among young voters. It also gives him an opportunity to show Democratic voters that he can beat Trump in November.
Update 10:00 AM PDT: Multiple news sources are now reporting that after the Internet was set ablaze by this news and every news source ran with it, sources within the Trump camp say he was kidding during his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Update 2:00 PM PDT: The New York Daily News reported Thursday that Trump may not have been kidding after all, but has put a price tag of $10-15 million guaranteed to charity.
Update 3:05 PM PDT Friday, May 27: After changing his mind again, Trump has decided to call the debate off. CNN reports that Trump said it would be “inappropriate” to debate Bernie Sanders, “the second-place finisher.”