Republican presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump says that he won’t attend the Fox News/Google GOP debate on Jan. 27th following his concerns that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly was not “fair” with him in a previous debate. “Roger Ailes and FOX News think they can toy with him,” Trump’s organization posted in a press release on his website “but Mr. Trump doesn’t play games.” Rival candidate Sen. Ted Cruz entered the fray on Tuesday, excoriating Trump at a campaign rally and arguing that the Kelly/Fox News beef was merely a ruse.

“One of us is going to win the state of Iowa, and that’s why he’s not showing up,” Cruz said at rally in Keosauga, Iowa. “It has nothing to do with Megyn Kelly [...] I mean no one is that trivial.”

Cruz echoed a Fox News statement making fun of Trump saying that world leaders like Vladimir Putin wouldn’t be “fair” with him either, and challenged Trump to a mini-debate with no moderators. Cruz and Trump are within the margin of error of each other in Iowa polls, though Trump still leads nationally by a wide margin.

“We'll do 90 minutes, Lincoln-Douglas, mano-a-mano, Donald and me," Cruz said. "He can lay out his vision for this country, and I can lay out my vision for this country in front of the men and women of Iowa."

Trump has led the GOP polls for months, but there’s only one way to tell if those poll numbers can translate into votes. On Feb. 1, the rubber meets the road in Iowa. “Hand-to-hand” verbal combat is the only way that Cruz can get Trump to put his foot in his mouth. By missing the debates, Trump keep the media focused on him, without risking any debate missteps.

Cruz, a shaky second in the primary race, would like to consolidate his position, and is already billing himself to Republican voters as the “only candidate who can beat Donald Trump.” As of press time Trump hasn’t replied yet to Cruz’s challenge.

Update: Trump responds, with taunt at Cruz's Canadian heiritage. 

 

Trump’s campaign said in his original statement that the he will instead “host an event in Iowa to raise money for the Veterans and Wounded Warriors, who have been treated so horribly by our all talk, no action politicians.” The Wounded Warriors Project is the same charity that came under fire this week for reportedly lavish spending. The charity's budget for conferences and meetings ballooned from $1.7 million in 2010 to $26 million in 2014 according to an investigation by CBS News.

Update: In an email to the Latin Times, WWP said that Trump was not coordinating an event with them. 

"Wounded Warrior Project is a national, nonpartisan organization, and we are not aware of any fundraising efforts on our behalf with Mr. Donald Trump," said spokesperson Paul Loisel.

Should Trump attend the GOP debate? Hold the fundraiser for a different charity? Go mano-a-mano with Ted Cruz? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Here's the full challenge from Cruz...

... and one of the Trump campaign's attempts to turn supporters into caucus-goers. 

"If you can write 'T-R-U-M-P' you have just caucused for Donald Trump."