When Fox announced that it had added another GOP debate to be held this coming Monday night, Allahpundit was more than a bit skeptical. At the time, he reasoned that two things in particular made the event unlikely. First, if yesterday’s primary votes resulted in Trump winning both Florida and Ohio, Rubio and Kasich would both be gone. That sort of rearranges the math and you need to treat the debates a bit differently. Obviously that didn’t happen and we still have a three man field.
The second reason offered was that Cruz is a skilled debater who might wipe the floor with Trump in a one on one setting where there were no long pauses while four other people were talking and nobody else to take the heat. Does Trump really want to get into that sort of a dogfight? We’re hearing this morning that the debate may be off the table, but Trump at least has a different reason to cancel. (The Hill)
Donald Trump will miss the final Republican presidential debate to address a major pro-Israel lobbying organization instead, according to an insider.
“Hearing that Trump secured a Monday night speaking slot at AIPAC conf. in D.C,” tweeted Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, referencing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
“Also happening that night: [the] Republican debate in Salt Lake City,” he added, alluding to the 13th GOP presidential contest on March 21.
Fox News announced on Monday that it is hosting next week’s contest in Salt Lake City — its fourth event this presidential election. Trump remained non-committal later that evening when asked about his plans.
“Well, I don’t know,” he said on Fox News’s “On the Record” when asked if he would attend the contest. “I know nothing about it right now.
There’s a couple of points to make here. First of all, let’s deal with the excuse being offered. A speech at AIPAC is a big deal for Trump, particularly since his commitment to Israel has been questioned at numerous points during the campaign and Cruz will no doubt be hitting him on that for the rest of the primary. Trump isn’t stupid and knows he needs to shore up his bona fides in that area. Why would he skip out on such an engagement for yet another debate? In terms of priorities that was probably a pretty easy call.
Just to be complete on the coverage, there are some questions being raised as to whether or not this AIPAC speech is even set in stone.
Trump not doing the Fox debate next week, says he has a speech for AIPAC – as of yesterday AIPAC said candidate speaker schedule wasn't set
— Eliza Collins (@elizacollins1) March 16, 2016
The lineup “not being set” isn’t the same thing as an invitation not having been sent. If we find out later that they never even talked to Trump about it then he’ll have been caught with his pants down, but I refuse to believe he’s that stupid. There was probably an ongoing discussion about scheduling him but it just wasn’t firmed up yet, and Trump was still going to prioritize the AIPAC meeting over a debate.
Looking at the long game, we should also tackle the issue of does Trump want to debate Ted Cruz in the first place. Frankly, I disagree with AP on this point. Cruz is the superior debater in the classic definition of the term, but Trump doesn’t play that game and never has. He doesn’t study the likely questions in advance, memorize key points to make at each turn and deliver them with carefully measured verbal blows for maximum buy-in by the audience. He’s the stream of consciousness guy. He hears a question (or only part of it in some cases) and seizes on whatever comes to mind at the moment. I don’t think he’s afraid of facing Cruz because I honestly don’t believe that Trump is afraid of anyone, nor is there room in his world view to consider the possibility that anyone could beat him at anything. He’ll say whatever he feels like, walk off the stage and declare himself the winner. And for a certain segment of the audience, that works.
There is, however, another motivating factor which might keep him from the stage. It’s not a matter of being afraid of Cruz as I see it, but more a general weariness with the entire debate process. If I could put myself inside Trump’s mind for a moment I’m guessing that his argument will be that there’s simply no point in having any more debates. The race is over and he’s the nominee (as The Donald sees it) and all the questions have been asked and answered. It’s just a waste of time.
That’s not to say that Trump will refuse to do any more debates. But if he’s got something better to do I wouldn’t be shocked to see him send his RSVP with regrets next time as well.