Mike Pence Calls Out Former Boss Trump For Skipping Next Week's GOP Primary Debate

2024 GOP presidential hopeful Mike Pence on Monday called out his former boss Donald Trump over the latter’s decision to skip next week’s Republican primary debate in California.

Trump will instead reportedly host a rally with striking autoworkers in Detroit, seizing on an opportunity to gather further support for his presidential bid.

But Pence told CBS News the former president’s intention to stay out of yet another primary debate is a “missed opportunity” for him to show Republicans his policy priorities.

“I think it’s a missed opportunity for Donald Trump and I think it’s a missed opportunity for Republican voters,” Pence told CBS’s Robert Costa. “Look, this country is in a lot of trouble. Joe Biden has weakened America at home and abroad and I think the former president, just like all the rest of us vying for the Republican nomination, owe it to the American people to express what our agenda will be for turning this country around.”

The former vice president said Trump isn’t committed to pushing a conservative agenda this time around, pointing to some of his recent comments that strict abortion bans are a losing strategy.

“I’m pro-life, I don’t apologize for it but Donald Trump even this last weekend said that a heartbeat bill that passed in Florida was a terrible mistake and even blamed losses in the ’22 midterm elections on the fact that we overturned Roe v. Wade,” Pence said.

Trump told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in an interview broadcast Sunday that the six-week abortion ban that 2024 GOP presidential hopeful and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed was a “terrible mistake” — comments that drew heat from several Republicans. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said, “It’s never a ‘terrible thing’ to protect innocent life” without referring to Trump by name.

Despite this, Trump remains the runaway favorite for the race with over 56% of those surveyed, according to an average of GOP primary polls compiled by FiveThirtyEight.

Instead of debating his GOP opponents next week, Trump is planning a 500-person rally in Detroit with autoworkers and other members of building trade unions who aren’t on strike but who generally lean more conservative.

Trump also skipped the first Republican primary debate in Milwaukee last month, saying his commanding lead in the race meant he had no reason to show up and prop up his opponents. He instead appeared in a pretaped interview with Tucker Carlson that ran on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, while the debate was underway.

The upcoming GOP debate is scheduled for next Wednesday and will be hosted by Fox Business and Univision in Simi Valley.

So far, six candidates have qualified to appear on the stage, according to Axios. This includes Pence, DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.).