Fox News announces new GOP debate on March 21st, which, er, is highly unlikely to happen

Draw me a picture of tomorrow night’s results that would make it seem kinda sorta plausible that this debate will be held as scheduled.

Donald Trump may not want another debate, but Fox News on Monday announced that it will host one from Salt Lake City on March 21.

The first presidential debate of any kind in Utah will begin at 7 p.m. and take place at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

Fox News hosts Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace will moderate.

The debate will take place the day before Utah’s presidential caucuses.

Rubio’s going to lose Florida, probably in a landslide, and will be gone shortly thereafter. Kasich might lose Ohio, in which case he’ll soon be gone too. He leads narrowly in most recent polls but the righty backlash to SJWs turning Trump’s Chicago rally into a fiasco is unpredictable. I wouldn’t bet against a last-minute surge towards Trump that hands him the state. If that happens then we’ll finally be down to a two-man race between Trump and Cruz. Show of hands: Who thinks Trump is prepared to take his chances with the debate champion for two hours head to head in a high-stakes showdown on Fox? Not a chance, right? There is, I guess, a small chance that it’ll happen if Kasich wins Ohio and it remains a three-way race after this week, but I wouldn’t bet on that either. For one thing, Trump’s already said he’s done with debating:

“We’ve had enough debates,” Trump told reporters at a news conference in Palm Beach, Florida. “I mean, how many times do you have to give the same answer to the same question?”

Trump also said he was not aware of the upcoming GOP presidential debate in Salt Lake City, which was added last month to the schedule by the Republican National Committee, and didn’t see a need for it.

“I didn’t know there was a next debate,” Trump said. “Can I be honest with you? I think it’s time to end the debates. No, I didn’t know about the debate in Salt Lake City.”

Even if he has a bad night tomorrow, which seems unlikely, he’d probably benefit more from skipping future debates than by showing up. His performance at the last two was terrible and he can always get the free airtime he’d have gotten from Fox by dialing up cable news networks to ramble in primetime unchallenged.

The debate could, I guess, proceed with just Cruz and Kasich, but … why would Cruz agree to help Kasich by joining him on a big platform like that when he’s desperate to portray the race as a binary choice between him and Trump? Put Trump onstage and Cruz has a reason to show up and draw a contrast, even if Kasich is also fighting for speaking time. Take Trump offstage and all Cruz is doing at that point is elevating Kasich by treating him as a guy with the same odds of winning the nomination as he has. Cruz would be better off skipping it and trying to arrange interviews in some other high-profile formats instead, like the broadcast networks. And if all of that hasn’t convinced you, look at it this way: The outcomes in the two states that vote next week on the day after the debate, Arizona and Utah, are basically foreordained. Trump’s going to clean up in AZ thanks to his reputation as supreme border hawk and Cruz is going to clean up in UT thanks to their support for orthodox conservatism. The debate wouldn’t change anything, at least in the near term. So why should anyone bother attending?

And of course, it’s a Fox debate. If Trump wants out of it and needs a better excuse than “Cruz will destroy me,” he can just claim bias. Right, I know — he said after the last debate that Megyn Kelly did a professional job, but the whole point of Trumpism is that you don’t get to hold him to things he’s said even a day earlier. Here he is yesterday, on Howard Kurtz’s Fox show, broadcasting from an alternate reality in which 80 percent of the Fox line-up isn’t deep in the tank for him.

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