By now,the results of the Trumpless debate are pretty much in, and of course, the pundits are having a wonderful time with it.
To summarize briefly, Donald Trump had a major problem in FOX including Megyn Kelly as a moderator in the upcoming debate because he felt, with some justification she didn't treat him fairly the last time. So he simply said he was bailing unless FOX replaced her as moderator, and when they refused, he followed through and simply didn't appear.
This sort of thing is unheard of, although it shouldn't be. If after the first debate, Mitt Romney had simply said that he felt the country had gotten a good look at the differences between he and President Obama and he felt no need to further embarrass the president, he might be in the White House right now. Ditto if he had insisted on a more neutral moderator instead of the obviously partisan Candy Crowley for the second one.
What we saw here, as Rush Limbaugh cleverly noted is a glimpse of how Donald Trump negotiates, something that is normally not on public view. Right up to the end, he had Roger Aisles and FOX doing their best to get him to reconsider, because they knew what a Trump absence would do to ratings. But ultimately, they refused his final offer of $5 million donated to charity, which he probably knew they would anyway.
So was it a shrewd move on Donald Trump's part or a big mistake?
We'll see for sure Monday night, but personally I think it was a win-win for Trump.
I saw both the FOX debates and Donald Trump's charity event. The difference was extraordinary.
Fox chose to make their debate a slug fest between the candidates rather than an informative debate. Megyn Kelly in particular, along with Democrat Chris Wallace went out of their way to make the thing a circus, posing questions to the candidates designed to make them fight with each other. With Trump gone, the focus was on the other candidates. That emphasized the difference between Donald Trump and the other front runners, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. They didn't come out well as all.
When the Fox News moderators showed Marco Rubio on video repeatedly saying he wouldn’t support amnesty, and then Megyn Kelly pointed out that he went on to be a major part of the Gang of Eight GOP amnesty group, Rubio, smarmy as he is had a real deer in the headlights moment. It got especially bad when Jeb Bush pointed out that not only did Rubio support the amnesty bill, but went on to say on national TV that Rubio asked him to support it, and that Bush did so because he agreed with the Gang of Eight bill. Governor Bush also called Senator Rubio a coward at least twice for attempting to retreat from his support of amnesty for illegal migrants.
Video of Senator Ted Cruz supposedly supporting the Gang of Eight bill also was played. Cruz did his best to squirm out of that, but it involved a complex explanation of amendments that I'm not sure many viewers were fully able to follow. The attacks from Rubio and the others seeking to get into the top tier definite didn't help Cruz. As a whole, the debates were boring and barely watchable.
Donald Trump's event for disabled veterans and those suffering from PTSD and other problems was a whole different item.
For one thing, the contrast in the energy level was amazing. While the FOX debate was sour and fairly negative, the Trump event was a live wire, even before the candidate came onstage. In contrast to the collection of elites on FOX, Trump's event, put together on 24 hour notice featured real people, the sort of folks the average Iowan could identify with.
Held at the auditorium of Drake University, the event attracted hundreds of people whom waited on line in the bitter cold. Even Donald Trump seemed surprised the turnout on such short notice. "Look at all the cameras," he said. "This is like the Academy Awards."
And of course, there were the veterans. Trump did something I thought was an extremely astute move, making the event all about them. When he first hit the stage, he dropped his usual speech and talked all about the disabled veterans this event was designed to help, something that resonates in a lot of hearts given the recent VA scandals. when he read off the names of his wealthy friends who had pledged contributions, topped by a $1 million check of his own, the place simply erupted.
After that he yielded the stage to Staff Sgt. John Wayne Walding, who lost a leg to sniper fire in Afghanistan and had the crowd's total attention as he spoke movingly about his own struggles to cope and the fact that an estimated 22 veterans per day commit suicide. Walding tells his story in a book I recommend, No Way Out: A Story of Valor in the Mountains of Afghanistan. Walding also shared several stories of Trump’s kindness toward himself and other veterans.Two other Marine vets came on stage after Walding finished and spoke on the same theme..after which they presented Donald Trump with an honor ring from their veterans group representing the number of veterans who commit suicide after returning home.
Also speaking at the event were two other candidates running for the nomination, Mike Huckabee. and Rick Santorum.They weren't there to endorse Trump so much as they were there to endorse what he was doing that night.
Trump ended the event not so much with his usual campaign speech but with a speech mostly focused on the problems veterans have faced when returning from Iraq and Afghanistan -- inadequate healthcare, problems finding housing, drug abuse, and mental health issues.
"Our vets are being mistreated. Illegal immigrants are treated better in many cases than our vets and it's not going to happen any more. It's not going to happen any more," he said.
Of course, there was another message being sent as well.
An unbelievable night in Iowa with our great Veterans! We raised $6,000,000.00 while the politicians talked! #GOPDebate
Exactly. And I think a lot of people got the same message.
According to the latest polls, Trump has increased his lead over the second place Ted Cruz to six points. It wasn't so long ago that Cruz had the lead by a decent amount.
The Iowa caucus is a unique event, where turnout is everything. The weather forecast for tomorrow shows there's a chance of a blizzard, which could definitely effect turnout.
The usual turnout for these things is between 133,000 and 137,000. A smaller turnout favors Ted Cruz, whose campaign claims they have a guaranteed 7,000 votes. A larger one, say over 150,000 or so favors Donald Trump, many of whose supporters are said to be first time caucus goers.
No matter how Iowa turns out, Trump did himself no harm by skipping the FOX debate, and may very well have done himself some good. Simply based on what I saw, I think quite a few Trump supporters are going to caucus and vote whatever the weather does.