Consider this an olive branch to Trump supporters. Surely we can all come together and help him and Fox News promote their phony PR-stunt “feud” to hype Thursday night’s debate, can’t we?
To my surprise, at a little before 3 p.m. ET and with more than 11,000 votes banked, “yes” leads “no,” 52/48.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 26, 2016
Follow the link and you arrive at this Instagram clip, in which Trump tries to stifle a grin:
What’s the fun in voting yes? Maximum drama requires a heavy “no” vote, increasing the contrived suspense and giving Trump the chance to seem extra magnanimous on Thursday night when he says, “You know, Megyn, people didn’t even want me to do this debate because of you. But I’m here because I care about Iowans.” Now, instead, he’s going to have to say, “You know, Megyn, I was inclined to not even do this debate because of you. But I’m here because the people wanted me to be.” In the meantime, Fox is enjoying the show too:
Fox responded on Tuesday afternoon with a tongue-in-cheek statement: “We learned from a secret back channel that 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.”
Hypothesis: Trump could have, and maybe would have, skipped the debate if Cruz was pulling ahead in Iowa. I made the case yesterday that it wouldn’t be nuts for Trump to boycott and hold his own event in Iowa to “counterprogram” the debate; the usual suspects would call it a brilliant move, proof that he’s “not playing by their rules,” that he’ll shatter the media’s biased filter as president even though no one does more conventional media than Trump does. But realistically, that’s too much of a risk now that he’s ahead of Cruz in most polls. It’s a bold move to which Iowans would react unpredictably. Some undecideds might take it as proof that he’s scared of Kelly and/or Cruz; some might dismiss him as a narcissist who can’t bear to share the stage for his closing argument; some might regard it as arrogance, as though he thinks the race is won and no longer has to compete as eagerly for votes. Skipping the debate also would mean no Trump rebuttal of the inevitable Cruz attacks on his record. It’s worth risking all that and skipping it if you’re trailing and need to try something risky to reverse the trend, it’s another thing to do it if you’re ahead and looking to preserve the status quo. There’s no chance he’ll roll the dice with Cruz close behind him.
But everyone’s invested in pretending that this is a real feud since it makes for good copy, so go read Gabriel Sherman’s latest about how Roger Ailes is “struggling to draft a playbook to deal with Trump.” From what I can tell, apart from Kelly herself and a handful of other Foxies like Greg Gutfeld, the playbook seems to be to promote and defend Trump at every opportunity. Two exit questions for you now. First, is Sherman right about the meaning of this Trump quote?
While it remains highly unlikely that Trump actually won’t show up on Thursday, he continues to threaten the relationship between Fox News and its viewers. During his CNN interview, Trump played on Ailes’s leak anxiety, hinting that he has dirt on Kelly and is willing to use it. “Maybe I know too much about her,” he said.
Second, if he is right, what would the reaction on the right have been to candidate Obama idly tossing out something like that about a journalist who’d been hard on him in 2008?
Update: In case there was an iota of doubt, Roger Ailes told WaPo today that Kelly will be there on Thursday night whether that means Trump walks or not. Go figure that the network president won’t kneecap his biggest star just because one candidate half-jokingly says he might boycott.