Donald Trump has pulled out of the Fox News debate in Iowa, ostensibly because he was terrified that Megyn Kelly might ask him tough questions.
Last time, the Fox prime time talking head had the nerve to make things difficult for Trump, asking him detailed questions about his past affiliations and activities, and whether he truly felt he was a serious candidate for the American Presidency. After a two day temper tantrum, which included an alleged threat made by Trump’s camp to Fox News regarding Kelly‘s safety – at least according to Fox News – the network refused to pull Kelly as a questioner and the Donald dropped out.
U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump withdrew on Tuesday from a debate with party rivals this week out of anger at host Fox News (FOXA.O), leaving the last encounter before Iowa’s pivotal nominating contest without the front-runner.
Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, told reporters after a combative news conference held by the candidate that Trump would definitely not be participating in the debate scheduled for Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, and co-hosted by Google (GOOGL.O).
During the news conference before he addressed a large crowd in Marshalltown, Iowa, Trump expressed irritation that Fox News planned to leave in place as a moderator the anchor Megyn Kelly, whose questioning of Trump at a debate last August angered him.
Now, on the surface this seems like an intelligent play by Trump’s team. They’ve already marked Fox News as the enemy, so their tussle with the network will not hurt his campaign’s with whatever hodgepodge of moderates and Democrats he’s managed to cobble together in Iowa, it allows his campaign to show “backbone” when dealing with “establishment Republicans,” of which he is not one because he has always been a liberal crony Capitalist available to whichever party he needed to work out a deal with. And Donald doesn’t have to suffer the slings and arrows attendant to a debate just before Republicans caucus in Iowa. It does hurt Fox News, because their debate won’t get the same audience it would if it featured the Donald, though you might get some Republicans to tune in just to see what a real, substantial debate looks like without the reality television star’s presence dominating the stage and the conversation.
But while Trump doesn’t necessarily suffer from skipping the debate, he doesn’t necessarily gain what he would have had he participated. Trump has never suffered from a post-debate polling downturn, even when he’s mangled the bejeezus out of his answers. A rematch with Megyn Kelly would be ratings and campaign communications gold. He literally had nothing to lose. So is Trump maybe afraid of someone else on the stage answering the questions and not necessarily the woman asking them?
My theory is Trump is concerned that he’s running so closely to Cruz, and that a debate between the two would benefit Cruz more than it would benefit Trump. After all, Cruz has largely been kind to Trump in the debates, thinking, perhaps, that he’d acquire Trump’s horde of moderates once the Donald got bored and dropped out of the race. Trump hasn’t had to face Cruz since the war of words began in earnest, and Cruz has, thus far, been the only one who can effectively land blows on Trump. A live match-up between the two would be phenomenal, and, personally, I think Cruz would come out on top. So close to Iowa’s caucus, that’s not something Trump is willing to risk – and the Fox News beef gave Trump great cover.
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