By Yigit Topcu
Donald Trump managed to dominate yet another news cycle, this time with his unexpected decision to skip the Republican primary debate on Thursday. This would be the last debate before elections are held in Iowa, making his decision to bail all the more confusing.
In a televised interview with Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News commentator repeatedly implored the frontrunner to reconsider, but Trump would not budge.
He claims that he has been unfairly treated by Fox News regarding the amount of money and ratings that have come out of the Republican debates thus far, for which Trump, somewhat justifiably, claims to have been responsible for.
He is also upset about his long-running feud with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, who managed to get on Trump’s bad side in the previous debate which she moderated. Kelly’s line of questioning regarding Trump’s views and attitude towards women was evidently infuriating enough for him to boycott the next and final debate in which Kelly will again appear as moderator.
“I have zero respect for Megyn Kelly,” Trump said. “I don’t think she’s good at what she does and I think she’s highly overrated. And, frankly, she’s a moderator; I thought her question last time was ridiculous.”.
Adding fire to the dispute was a press release which Fox News put out when rumors emerged that he might not attend.
The statement mocked the frontrunner for his reaction Kelly’s questioning, saying “The Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president — a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.”.
Trump claims the insulting nature of the press release was the last straw before deciding to boycott the debate.
Trump’s critics have been quick to denounce the frontrunner, some claiming that this proves he is afraid to face his rivals, particularly on policy issues. Ted Cruz, who is currently polling in second place, went further and challenged Trump to a one on one debate, which the Trump campaign has so far largely ignored.
So far nobody but Donald is sure entirely why he is boycotting the debate, if the reasons he is giving is to be viewed with skepticism.
One explanation is that Trump’s unusual actions reinforce the idea that he is not a “typical politician”, which has been a large part of his appeal. He has also successfully dominated the media’s attention with this announcement, which has taken away coverage from his rivals. Any time he gets mentioned or brought up in the debate from here on is also a victory for him in this regard.
Another justification is that this leaves his main rival, Ted Cruz, in a more vulnerable position. Instead of taking Ted Cruz head on in the last debate, Trump in effect is letting the rest of the field do his dirty work. Since Trump will be absent from stage, Cruz will be the frontrunner which every other person will be chiefly focused on.
Staying the center of attention and reinforcing his “not-a-politician” uniqueness, all the while his rivals attack his primary challenger? Perhaps Trump has once again unexpectedly outmaneuvered his rivals.