It’s not a debate, it’s a forum. After all, the first official GOP presidential debate of the 2024 campaign is not until Aug. 23 in Milwaukee.

But a gathering of major Republican candidates, sans Donald Trump, will take place Friday, hosted by former Fox personality Tucker Carlson and broadcast by Blaze Media, the conservative media company co-founded by Glenn Beck.

Is the dream team of conservative broadcasting about to assemble?

Beck, one of the most influential voices in talk radio for the past two decades, has made no secret of his desire to combine forces with Carlson, who was unceremoniously dumped by Fox News in April.

On his Blaze TV show the day Carlson was let go, Beck called the move “suicidal” for Fox and said to his audience, “Would you sign up for The Blaze right now so I — we — just have a bucket full of money we could throw (Carlson’s) way?”

Beck, who was clearly stunned by the announcement, went on: “Tucker was the only guy out there that I felt was in the mainstream media that was telling America the truth. ... You’re getting rid of Tucker Carlson? Wow.”

Carlson has been coy about his plans, but the admiration isn’t one-sided. Just three weeks before Fox’s announcement, Beck had been on Carlson’s show to talk about the Trump indictment. In his introduction, Carlson said of Beck:

“When the history of cable news is written ... Glenn Beck will have his own chapter as possibly the greatest synthesizer of big ideas ever to appear on camera. And a lot of people made fun of Glenn Beck over the years for that, but if you go back and watch the tape, you will find out that, maybe more than any other person on television, Glenn Beck got it right. Again and again and again.”

Things weren’t always so cozy between the two flamethrowers. At one point, before the launch of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” in 2016, Carlson spoke derisively about Beck, saying that he had behaved obsequiously in a meeting with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. “I don’t know what his agenda is; it’s either he’s looking to put his tanking web properties up for sale or he just can’t help himself. There’s a billionaire there, so he sniffs the throne,” Carlson said.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then, though, and now the Fox ex-pats are united under the oldest conciliatory banner, the one that says “Any enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

And to be clear, that enemy is not Donald J. Trump.

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Despite having been critical of Trump in leaked personal correspondence released as part of the Dominion lawsuit against Fox, Carlson recently praised Trump for the former president’s criticism of ongoing aid to Ukraine. Beck has also spoken out against the amount of aid and munitions that America is giving Ukraine to fight Russia. At the end of his segment on Carlson’s show, he donned a MAGA hat.

Friday’s event, however, won’t include Trump, who is declining invitations to appear with other announced candidates and won’t commit to the Republican National Committee’s official debates.

The forum, which will be held at the Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, will feature Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, S.C. Sen. Tim Scott, former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who will each speak one-on-one with Carlson. After the forum, Beck will have what is being billed as an “intimate” conversation with Carlson, according to the YouTube promotion.

The candidates don’t seem concerned by the conservative firebrands’ reputations for making controversial claims, including, in Carlson’s case, raising doubts about the validity of the 2020 election that led to Dominion’s lawsuit against Fox. While their rhetoric has been called dangerous and incendiary by critics, it is seen as truth-telling by their fans.

If anything, appearing with Carlson and Beck could help the Republicans, as it means wider exposure among voters to their ideas and personalities. It presents an opportunity for those jockeying for second place to prove themselves, and to possibly win the support of two men whose opinions matter to millions of rank-and-file Republicans and independents.

For Carlson fans, lately limited to Twitter monologues that Fox claims are a violation of his contract, could happy days be here again?

It certainly would be good for The Blaze to add Carlson to its lineup of personalities, which includes Mark Levin, Jason Whitlock and Dave Rubin. But Carlson, Fox’s marquis personality before he was ousted, seems too big a star for that galaxy. While he seems to be enjoying time with his family during his unexpected sabbatical, there have been reports that he’s planning to launch his own media company, like Beck and another Fox alum, Megyn Kelly.

Some critics are crowing that “Carlson needed Fox more than Fox needed Carlson,” citing Carlson’s diminishing video views on Twitter; however, it’s far too early to make that claim, given Twitter’s recent instability and the contract dispute between Carlson and Fox that is presumably limiting what he is doing.

Fox may be the most powerful platform in conservative media (even though Columbia Journalism Review recently asked “Is Twitter the new Fox?”). But numbers and revenue don’t tell the whole story. Post-Fox, Kelly wields considerable influence with her own media company and podcast, and post-New York Times, Bari Weiss is more relevant than ever with the publication she founded, The Free Press.

Some Carlson fans dream of him running for president, an idea he swiftly swatted down. Those who dream of a Carlson-Beck collaboration may likewise be soon disappointed. But for a brief moment, the dream dangles, tantalizingly: the greatest entertainers in conservatism, together again, and a GOP candidates’ forum absent the complications of Trump.