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Mocking Donald Trump for Skipping the Debate: Why It Is Unwise

I’m no fan of the man, but I’m seeing headlines and memes in my Facebook feed mocking Donald Trump for opting out of the Republican debate. Even candidates are getting into the action. According to NBC News,

Ted Cruz challenged Donald Trump on Tuesday night to a one-on-one debate “anytime between now and the Iowa caucus.”

Less than an hour after Trump’s campaign told reporters the front-runner will skip Thursday’s GOP debate, Cruz, looking to have his moment with Trump, suggested to a crowd in Fairfield, Iowa, that “Donald is a fragile soul” and is “scared to face Megyn Kelly” — the FOX News moderator who riled Trump in the first Republican debate back in August.

This is a strategic mistake, or at least a big risk.

Consider that there are probably three groups of people among those who will vote in the Republican Primary: diehard Trump supporters, Trump haters, and those on the fence.

Chest beating over Trump refusing to participate in the debate is only going to appeal to Trump haters. It will only enrage supporters and it won’t make those on the fence think less of Trump and more of the opposition. If Ted Cruz thought that showing some of Donald Trump’s attitude was going to win Trump followers, then he is making a mistake. The way to win over Trump followers is to show that attitude towards the people they loathe.

Megyn Kelly proclaimed of Trump, “The truth is, he doesn’t get to control the media.” Right. But that’s not the issue for anyone not searching for a case against Trump. The issue for many of us is whether the media gets to control Trump, the election, and us.

Rand Paul refused to participate in the last debate (because they tried to make him sit at the children’s table). It doesn’t seem to have hurt him.

It seems to me that Ted Cruz would have won more people over it he had expressed understanding for Trump’s decision. Did he choose his course of action on the basis of winning voters or did he realize that, since he was going to be facing Megyn Kelly he had better take her side?

Who’s going to be boasting if Trump’s twitter feed gets more eyeballs while he is live-tweeting the debate than the debate itself? Come to think of it, if I were Fox News execs and stockholders, I would be praying that Trump at least tweets about the debate. That will add to their viewership.

In fact, there are reports that Fox News is panicking and pulling strings to cajole Trump into attending the debate. According to the Daily Mail,

Joe Scarborough, who has a close relationship with many people at Fox News, revealed on Morning Joe Wednesday morning that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes had been trying to contact both Ivanka and Melania Trump hoping they could convince Trump to change his mind, but that Trump would only speak to Rupert Murdoch.

I don’t know that this is true but it would make sense. Fox News has invested real money in this TV show assuming that they had Donald Trump to attract an audience. What happens when he doesn’t show and neither do viewers?

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Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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