Four days before Iowans caucus, Republican presidential candidates will debate tonight in Hawkeye State as Donald Trump, the party’s frontrunner, holds a town hall event to benefit veterans just three miles from the Des Moines debate site.
After Fox News taunted Trump this week in a press release, Trump decided to skip the event and beat Fox News boss Roger Ailes at his own game. On Thursday, Trump said the debate will “be a total disaster.”
The “debate” tonight will be a total disaster – low ratings with advertisers and advertising rates dropping like a rock. I hate to see this.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2016
The reality TV star, with a huge assist from Fox News, has turned the event into must-see television. Some think Trump may even make a surprise appearance. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said on Thursday evening that “in this cycle, anything is possible.”
Realistic chance Trump could have his cake and eat it, too: he told people this afternoon he might go to debate tonight after his event. — Gabriel Sherman (@gabrielsherman) January 28, 2016
But Trump has already won this round versus Fox News. He has shown he has the leverage, exposed Fox News’s many weaknesses and vulnerabilities, dominated the news cycle, and ensured that he will continue to do so during and after the event.
If Fox News gets decent ratings, Trump could still claim credit by arguing that viewers tuned in to see whether Trump would show up and how the candidates would respond without Trump there.
Trump’s absence may pose the biggest problem for Sen. Marco Rubio , though his establishment GOP fanboys/fangirls who have been predicting a Rubio surge that hasn’t materialized for the entire election cycle are doing their best to again spin that Rubio will benefit the most. Fox News has not disclosed to its viewers that its Washington Bureau Chief and the man who may be most responsible for crafting debate questions has a daughter who holds a top position in the Rubio campaign. Apparently, there is nothing to see here at all.
Because Trump will not be at the debate, Rubio may have to fend off many more attacks from his establishment GOP rivals who want to overtake him in New Hampshire. And even if Rubio has a breakout performance, he may not get the bump that he needs from it. After Iowa’s Democrats caucused in 2004, a surging John Edwards finished in second place behind John Kerry, who would eventually win the nomination. Howard Dean, who had been the frontrunner, finished in third but dominated the news cycle with his “Dean Scream.” Edwards would have surged even more had it not been for the Dean Scream, but the North Carolina Democrat lost a lot of his momentum because he could not elbow his way into the news cycle for days after the Dean Scream. Rubio will face the same dynamic. No matter how well he does, perhaps with Fox News putting a thumb on the scale for him, Rubio will have to compete with ALL THINGS TRUMP in the days ahead, and that diminishes the opportunities he will have to get a significant surge.
Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee , Rick Santorum , and Jim Gilmore will be in the undercard debate (7PM EST), which Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer will moderate. Huckabee and Santorum—the last two winners of the Iowa Caucuses—will head to Trump’s event after the undercard debate.
Chris Christie , Jeb Bush , John Kasich , Dr. Ben Carson and Sens. Sen. Ted Cruz , Marco Rubio, and Sen. Rand Paul will be in the main event. Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace will moderate the primetime debate at 9 PM EST.
Those looking for even a semi-decent discussion on immigration will be disappointed. Fox News is prioritizing the concerns of a Muslim activist and an illegal immigrant activist—both of whom will be questioners. Those who have been impacted by illegal immigration—like Jamiel Shaw Sr., whose son was murdered by an illegal immigrant—will apparently not get a voice. Neither will Americans laid off after companies abused the H-1B visa system.
For some reason, Ailes seems hellbent on promoting the centrist Kelly as the face of the network. According to Politico, Ailes’s press statement that was the last straw for Trump “was meant to redirect Trump’s fire from Kelly to Ailes and the network.” And New YorkMagazine reported that Fox News “is split between Kelly’s allies like Brit Hume and conservative anchors that are furious that Kelly… has become the face of the network.”
Perhaps Ailes could have gotten Trump to reconsider by apologizing. Or he could have diffused the situation long before it flared up replacing Kelly with someone like Shannon Bream, who had a standout and widely-praised performance in the 2011 GOP debate in South Carolina. More personable than Kelly while also being more fluent on the issues, Bream may be a better–and more impartial– moderator than Kelly. But maybe Ailes doesn’t want Kelly to be his network’s Wally Pipp after promoting her so heavily.
Stay tuned to Breitbart News for live updates throughout the evening.
Livestream of Trump’s event can be seen below (live updates here):
Watch a livestream of Fox News’s debate below:
Trump reportedly spoke to Ailes earlier tonight and will not show up to the debate or the spin room after the debate. According to the Associated Press, Trump told reporters that his event has already raised $5 million for vets and he has already donated $1 to veterans causes.
In an understatement at the conclusion of the undercard debate, Hemmer says “the night has just begun.”
Gilmore: He says he is the so of a meat-cutter and his mother was secretary. He said he didn’t have a father who could give him a $1 million loan to start a business and he won’t go across town to carry the coat for some billionaire.
Read more: Breitbart