Politics & Policy

Will Trump’s Boycott Play as Tantrum or Principled?

Joe Scarborough announced on MSNBC that “Fox News has walked into the biggest trap ever” by having its tiff with Donald Trump escalate into the Donald’s refusing to show up for Thursday’s Fox debate in Iowa. His view has been echoed by almost all the other members of the punditocracy I’ve seen.

I’m not so sure. Iowa voters expect to be able to either meet or see up close the candidates who are seeking their vote. Trump may well be seen as dissing Iowans by not being willing to engage with all of the other candidates. After all, his boycott amounts to punishing Iowa voters over his anger at having “biased” moderator Megyn Kelly at the debate.

After Trump used a Twitter poll yesterday to ask his followers if he should skip the Fox debate, close to 60 percent of his most fervent followers said he should show up. Trump ignored them and made a last-minute decision.

As the Washington Examiner reported, Trump spokesman Katrina Pierson learned live on CNN of Trump’s decision. Clearly, it wasn’t something he consulted his staff on for very long.

Trump staffers now insist that their man’s mind is made up about not participating. “His word is his bond,” insists his campaign manager Cory Lewandowski. When I hear that about Trump, I automatically think a change in signals or a deal is in the offing. If Trump detects that his boycott of the Fox debate is costing him with Iowa voters, he will find a way back to the debate stage.

In the meantime, of course, he will have wiped all other stories off of the media map and had everyone focus once again on his antics. The more that happens, and the less attention paid to Trump’s actual positions and inconsistencies, the better for him. 

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