Live Blog: Fox Iowa GOP Debate sans the StrumpPosted: January 28, 2016
Can the 2016 primaries get any more odd? Tonight’s the final Republican debate prior to the Iowa Caucuses next Monday. Frontrunner Donald Trump will be holding an alternative event that will be attended by other candidates Mike “the Huckster” Huckabee and Rick “the frothy” Santorum. The event will benefit Veterans by sending money to a nonprofit that’s notorious for not spending its money on Veterans. It’s not sure who the Fox Debate will benefit although bets seem to be on Cruz or Rubio. Rand Paul figured out how to get on the main stage. Whine.
Republican presidential candidates will square off Thursday evening at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa. The debate is the final one before next Monday’s Iowa caucuses, and is especially notable for being the first one in which Donald Trump is not present.
Both the undercard and primetime debates will air on Fox News, with a different set of moderators for each. The earlier event, which begins at 7 p.m. ET, will be hosted by America’s Newsroom anchors Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer, and will feature four candidates: Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Jim Gilmore.
The primetime event will begin at 9 p.m. ET, and will be moderated by Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace, and Bret Baier. Participating in the big event are Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Rand Paul. Frontrunner Donald Trump qualified for the event but declined to participate because of his ongoing feud with Fox News.
Cruz is chomping at the bit to go one on one with the Strump and has even set up a venue. Trump’s campaign manager has said there’s no point to debating some one that may not even be eligible to be President. (Ouch)
Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said on Thursday that his candidate would be “happy” to debate Ted Cruz once the Texas senator gets a federal judge to rule him eligible to run for president.
“Once you’ve gotten that ruling from the federal judge and you’re the last man standing in this presidential contest next to Donald Trump, we’ll be happy to have a debate with you one-on-one, anywhere you want, because that’s the way the system works,” Lewandowski said. “But, as it stands right now, we don’t even know if Ted Cruz is legally eligible to run for president of the United States.”
Trump and his supporters have argued that Cruz, who was born in Canada to a U.S. citizen, is not natural born and therefore ineligible to run for president under the Constitution.
Cruz challenged Trump to debate him one-on-one after Trump announced that he would not be attending the Fox News Republican presidential debate Thursday night because of objections to the presence of anchor Megyn Kelly and a statement Fox issued in response to his complaints.
“What this is, is a publicity stunt by Senator Cruz who is continuing to fall in the polls in the state of Iowa,” Lewandowski told Boston radio host Jeff Kuhner, before unleashing a slew of attacks at Cruz, arguing that he had used “dark money donors” through his super PAC to offer a donation to charity if Trump agreed to the debate.
Pundits are discussing the internecine battles apparent in the Republican Party since Trump has obviously challenged Roger Ailes Kingmaker status and placed the party itself in a pretty weird place. Priebus was on MSNBC earlier on the weekday MTP explaining that the party really had nothing to do with the debates other than setting up the venues and times even though it had earlier removed media outlets for participating. This group is not Bob Dole’s Republicans, for sure.
Trump’s rivals view the debate as a chance to get their own messages across without having to compete with Trump’s bomb-throwing rhetoric.
“It gives us more time at the microphone and more time to talk about answers to substantive issues that Iowa voters are demanding right now,” said David Kochel, a senior adviser to Republican candidate Jeb Bush.
“It is undeniable that what he’s doing is denying his opponents a large audience as they make their final arguments to Iowa voters,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a Republican strategist who advised the party’s 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney.
While it might be tempting for Trump’s rivals to use the debate to criticize him aggressively, some Republican analysts are cautioning against a scorched-earth approach.
“It’s delicate for the candidates because you have to pull back from attacking a man who is not there,” said Ari Fleischer, who was White House press secretary for President George W. Bush. “It will be OK to make a passing reference or two, the fact that he’s not there. But if you try to beat him up, it won’t play well because he’s not there to defend himself.”
Campaigning on Wednesday in West Des Moines, Cruz mocked Trump for skipping the debate, calling him a “fragile soul.” He renewed his offer to Trump to debate him one-on-one.
After ducking the final Republican presidential debate heading into next week’s Iowa caucuses, GOP front-runner Donald Trump announced that he would hold his own pro-veterans event during the debate to raise money for veterans. Trump even set up a special website to solicit donations to help veterans.
“Honor their valor,” the website, donaldtrumpforvets.com, states. “Donate now to help our Veterans.”
The website, which is nothing more than a single page with stock photosand a credit card donation form, claims that “100% of your donations will go directly to Veterans needs.”
There’s only one problem: 100% of the money raised on the site goes directly to Donald Trump’s personal non-profit foundation, according to a disclosure listed at the bottom of the page.
“The Donald J Trump Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization,” the disclosure reads. “An email confirmation with a summary of your donation will be sent to the email address provided above.”
Well, alright then. Guess vets will have to kiss the ring to be considered for the money.
Josh Marshall–while regretting the gender bias in the term–is looking at this as the “bitch slap” theory of politics. He has a few interesting thoughts on the matter of Trump challenging Ailes.
But this driving force of Republican politics has only become more salient and central as the GOP has become increasingly dominated by core constituencies animated by anger and resentment that things to which they believe they are entitled are being taken away from them.
Trump doesn’t apologize. He hurts people and they go away. He says things that would kill a political mortal (ban members of an entire religion from entering the country) and yet he doesn’t get hurt. Virtually everything Trump has done over the last six months, whether it’s a policy proposal or personal attack, has driven home this basic point: Trump is strong. He does things other people can’t.
This is why Trump has so shaken up and so dominated the GOP primary cycle, at least thus far. As I’ve said, this kind of dominance symbolism is pervasive in GOP politics. It’s not new with Trump at all. Most successful Republican politicians speak this language. And yet somehow for most it is nonetheless a second language. But it’s Trump’s native language. I still believe it’s rooted in the mix of the hyper-aggressive New York real estate world, his decades of immersion in the city’s febrile tabloid culture and just being, at the most basic level, a bully. Wherever it comes from, he seems to intuitively get that for this constituency and at this moment just demonstrating that he gets his way, always, is all that really matters. Policy details, protecting the candidate through careful press releases and structured media opportunities … none of that matters. Trump doesn’t kiss babies. Babies kiss him. He doesn’t have a billionaire backer; he is a billionaire. Trump doesn’t ask for support. He just tells you that you need to stop being a loser and get on board.
So this debate power play is all of a piece. He can just take the table, flip it over and walk out of the room. It’s all about him.
There is no question that Trump will completely dominate tomorrow night’s debate by his absence. After all, he’s the one in the lead everywhere. If he’s not there, what is there to talk about? The Rubio v Christie stand off? Jeb? Who cares?
It may be two plus hours of people attacking him without him being there to respond – and the moderators themselves out to get him too. But again, it’s still all about him. He can make it all about him by not even being there. He doesn’t kowtow to Fox News or go on retainer with the network during the off-season. He calls the shots. And there is little question in my mind that in one fashion or another you will have two competing TV shows tomorrow night, Trump’s and everybody else’s. And Trump’s will almost certainly be better.
So, grab a beer or a cuppa, a nice comfy sitting situation, and a bag full of nerfballs to throw at the TV. It’s time to listen to Right Wing Anger and Paranoia.