WASHINGTON, January 28, 2016 — GOP frontrunner Donald Trump hasn’t rewritten the political rulebook; he’s thrown it out.
The Donald’s entertainment brand has successfully trumped the billionaire-backed political brands of former Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and perhaps even Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. He has left the media and political establishments dumbfounded by his obliteration of traditional political wisdom as we know it.
In bucking tonight’s Fox Business debate, Trump has put himself directly at odds with the right-leaning news network just days before the Iowa caucuses.
What is his strategy and will he win? This is a public relations battle as much as it is a political one, and Trump has created “winner-take-all stakes.” This is now all or nothing.
Fox News said Trump’s refusal to debate before the Iowa caucus is “near unprecedented.”
But it’s not unprecedented.
In 1980, GOP front-runner Ronald Reagan skipped the last debate before the Iowa Caucuses and narrowly lost Iowa to George H.W. Bush. He went on to win the nomination and the presidency. Advisors say Reagan always felt his decision to skip the debate was a strategic mistake that gave Bush an opening.
But Donald Trump is also not just any candidate.
In skipping the debate and making it a public spectacle, he has once again captured the media and the public’s attention. Will he attend the debate or won’t he? Will he change his mind? Is this really about Megyn Kelly or is it about something else entirely?
Or will Trump’s competing event on Thursday night, which will be televised on CNN to raise money for wounded warriors, steal Fox’s thunder? Will it deprive Fox of the ratings bonanza of previous Trump-headlined debates?
Trump is a gambler, but he knows exactly what he is doing.
Only Trump could plan a dramatic televised event opposite the GOP debate on Fox News and air it on a competing network with Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum in tow. He has everyone talking, and that’s what he wanted.
Will it pay off?
Tonight’s news ratings and the results of Monday’s Iowa caucus will begin to tell the tale.