- Citadel CEO Ken Griffin is trying to get Donald Trump to debate Nikki Haley.
- The billionaire said he wanted to see the pair engage in a “battle of ideas,” not name-calling.
- He highlighted Haley as Trump’s main rival, but said he was still deciding if he wanted to back her.
Hedge fund boss Ken Griffin on Tuesday urged former President Donald Trump to take on fellow presidential hopeful Nikki Haley in a GOP primary debate.
Speaking to Bloomberg at a conference in Miami, Griffin echoed a now oft-repeated line from Trump’s political rivals to the former president: Do you have the guts to take the podium and spar?
“I think the real issue is, is Donald Trump, for all of his bluster, willing to get on stage with Nikki Haley or not?” the Citadel CEO said. “I mean, Joe Biden at least had the excuse of COVID. What’s Trump’s excuse?”
Trump has so far declined to attend every GOP presidential debate. Preliminary polls show him commanding a strong lead.
Griffin, who’s recently become one of Wall Street’s biggest conservative political donors, said he wanted to see what the former president is “made of at this moment in time.”
“The American public needs to see, can Donald Trump hold his own with Nikki Haley?” Griffin added.
When Bloomberg correspondent Sonali Basak asked Griffin if he was financially backing Haley, the billionaire said he was “actively contemplating” support for the former ambassador.
“I mean, we’re at the finish line on that choice, yes or no,” he said.
Griffin said Haley’s chances in the GOP nomination would be defined by the next three months — and if Trump eventually decides to debate her.
“The issue’s going to come down to: Is he brave enough to face her in a debate?” Griffin said.
Preliminary polls show Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis often competing for second place, but at least 20 points behind Trump.
But Griffin also lamented the personal bashing and name-calling that’s seized GOP politics and debates as of late.
“I’d like to see a battle of ideas rather than a battle of name-calling,” Griffin said. “You can’t run the largest economy in the world as a name-calling bully. You can run the largest economy in the world with the right policies.”
The third GOP presidential debate was marked by a brief but fierce exchange between Vivek Ramaswamy and Haley, after Ramaswamy said Haley’s daughter was using TikTok.
“Leave my daughter out of your voice,” Haley said. “You’re just scum.”
Griffin could also be referring to Trump’s hallmark tactic of debuting disparaging or insulting nicknames for his political opponents. The former president drew criticism this week for calling his rivals “vermin,” a term the Biden administration highlighted was once used by Adolf Hitler to refer to his political enemies.
Griffin raised questions toward the “relative mental capacity” of an aging Trump and President Joe Biden in the event that both become their respective parties’ nominees. Trump will be 78 in 2024. Biden will be 81.
The billionaire said Americans have become keenly aware they need to choose the right president amid a turbulent economy.
“Nine months ago, a year ago, you might have argued that the American voter could look at this election as a bit of an entertainment moment. Doesn’t really matter who the president is, things are okay,” Griffin said. “But they’re not.”