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Trump will attend super PAC fundraiser instead of 4th GOP primary debate

By Kristen Holmes and Alayna Treene, CNN

(CNN) — While GOP presidential hopefuls duke it out on stage at the fourth Republican primary debate in Alabama next week, former President Donald Trump will attend a fundraiser in Hallandale Beach, Florida, to raise money for MAGA, Inc., the super PAC supporting his candidacy, multiple sources told CNN.

A text message sent from his campaign to supporters Sunday announced the “VIP reception” and told recipients that if they donated to Trump’s campaign, they would be automatically entered to win a trip to meet the former president at an end-of-year reception on December 6, the same day as the debate.

Trump has not attended any of the debates, citing a commanding lead in the polls. Instead, he has sat with Tucker Carlson for an interview, held an event for autoworkers in Detroit amid the union strike and put on a competing Florida rally.

Earlier this month, Trump’s campaign called on the Republican National Committee to cancel all future debates.

With just seven weeks until the Iowa Caucuses, the former president is the Republican primary’s clear leader in both national and early state polling. Even as Trump battles 91 criminal counts across four indictments, his fellow GOP candidates have largely abstained from taking him on – paving a path of little resistance for the Republican front-runner as others are forced to spend significant resources to stay relevant.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley are jockeying to emerge as the main Trump alternative, though influential conservative donors have begun to throw their weight behind Haley.

The RNC has heightened the qualification criteria for the fourth debate. To appear on stage in Tuscaloosa, candidates will need to reach 80,000 unique donors with at least 200 in 20 states or territories and register at least 6% in two qualifying national polls or in one national poll and two polls from separate early voting states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada. Similar to conditions for past debates, the RNC continues to require candidates to sign a pledge committing to support the eventual GOP nominee.

The third debate earlier this month saw DeSantis, Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott take the stage, with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson failing to meet the RNC’s threshold. Scott has since joined former Vice President Mike Pence in suspending his White House bid, further narrowing the GOP field.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Daniel Strauss, Fredreka Schouten and Jack Forrest contributed to this report.

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