Trump threatens to sit out next GOP debate

Republican presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: Obama talked about a 'world that doesn't exist' Clinton to cast election as ‘moment of reckoning’ Dukakis: Trump 'getting away with murder' MORE on Wednesday continued to bash CNN’s debate coverage and GOP rival former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush a day after the network’s Tuesday night debate. 

The real estate mogul appeared at his first campaign rally in Mesa, Ariz., since the last GOP debate of 2015, again suggesting he may not attend the next debate. 

“I’ll bet you they get big ratings,” Trump said at Wednesday’s rally about CNN. “I think next time I won’t do it,” adding “just to see it tank.”

Earlier this month, Trump had proposed only appearing at the debate if CNN paid him $5 million, which, he said, he would donate to wounded veterans. After CNN's president said the network would not pay, Trump reluctantly agreed to participate. 

At the rally, Trump contended that “last cycle, no network even wanted the debates” and that the debates used to be considered a “wasteland.”

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CNN reported 18 million viewers watched Tuesday’s debate, the network’s third-most viewed debate this cycle. But Trump said he doesn’t benefit from the high ratings. “You know what I get out of it?” Trump said Wednesday. “Nothing.” 

Trump panned Tuesday's CNN debate moderators, accusing the network of asking questions that centered around the real estate mogul “just to get ratings.”

"I think it is very sad that CNN leads Jeb Bush, Governor Bush, down a road by starting off virtually all the questions by ‘Mr. Trump this, Mr. Trump that,'" Trump said during Tuesday’s debate.

Trump pivoted to his heated exchange with Bush during Tuesday's debate, calling the former governor's attacks “low-energy.” 

“He said it just the way his pollster told him to say it, hit back very, very hard, we need strong people, we need sharp people." 

Trump sparred repeatedly with Bush during Tuesday’s debate, mocking Bush’s low poll numbers and jabbing him for not being tough enough. 

“We need toughness, I think Jeb is a really nice person, but we need tough people, we need intelligence and we need toughness,” Trump said at the debate. 

But Bush fired back at Trump, denouncing his controversial proposal and calling the real estate mogul a “chaos candidate.”

"Donald is great at the one-liners, but he is a chaos candidate, and he'd be a chaos president,” Bush said during the debate. “He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe."

Trump on Wednesday also took aim at Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulWhat to watch for on Day 2 at the GOP convention Cyber squatters sitting on valuable VP web addresses Majority of GOP senators to attend Trump convention MORE (R-Ky.), who, at the last minute qualified for the primetime debate and singled out the real estate mogul several times Tuesday night.

"He doesn’t have a chance. What is Rand Paul doing?” Trump said, continuing that he doesn’t have the same “spark” that his father, Ron Paul, had while running for president. 

“I love Kentucky, but I don't get it,” Trump said, then switching to criticize Paul’s Senate reelection. “How does this guy win Kentucky? Is this guy going to be primaried?”

But the billionaire businessman said the majority of the GOP hopefuls were “nice to him,” saying he was prepared for all 14 Republican candidates to lob attacks at him. “Ted CruzTed CruzA plea to young Bernie supporters Grassroots battling establishment on trade at conventions Fixing the disastrous nomination process MORE was very nice to me, and I was nice to him. Most of the people were nice to me last night.” 

Trump maintains his lead among the GOP field in national polls with 33 percent, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average. But he’s in a tighter race in Iowa with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), falling into a close second.

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