Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Threat or promise?

The long standing mantra of "There's no such thing as bad publicity" will be put to the test this week.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump abruptly announced here Tuesday that he would not participate in Thursday’s scheduled debate, escalating his off-and-on feud with Fox News Channel and throwing the GOP campaign into turmoil.

Trump’s assertion, which his campaign manager insisted was irreversible, came less than one week before the kickoff Iowa caucuses. He once again defied the conventional rules of politics, and used his power and prominence to shape the campaign agenda and conversation.

So far, Trump’s untraditional moves have only expanded his support, but his threatened boycott leaves him open to criticism that for all his tough talk he is ducking face-to-face confrontations with his opponents and scrutiny from the Fox moderators.

The GOP race for Iowa is very tight at this moment, a story line that, in and of itself, is very compelling. Despite that, what are most political observers talking about this week? Trump's shenanigans. That's why I question whether this supposed bad publicity for Trump will at all hinder him.

I honestly have no idea why Trump is doing this. Could this all be a calculated move in an attempt to gain more publicity (perhaps even some sympathy) since Iowa is not in the bag for him? Or is it that Trump is so ego maniacal that the thought of moderator Megyn Kelly not offering to kiss his ring being willing to concede his sheer genius is just too daunting for him? I saw one national poll Tuesday which indicated his support in the GOP field topped 40%! If anyone has earned the right to go into a venue with extra bravado and an "I don't care what you think of me" demeanor, it's Trump.

On the bright side, a debate without Trump means the other candidates (let's face it: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and maybe Chris Christie are the only legit players remaining outside of Trump) will have an opportunity to engage in a substantive (yet still spirited) discussion of the issues. I'm OK with that.


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