Trump Fear of Fox Moderators’ Approach Real Reasons For Ducking (Now-Cancelled) Debate
The race for the GOP nomination now isn’t about who winning or losing, but how you play the game. In this case, the game is all about who can stop Donald Trump just enough from getting to 1,237 delegates. And if that magic number isn’t eclipsed, get ready for what will undoubtedly be dubbed The Quagmire in Cleveland via a brokered convention… something that hasn’t happened in the Republican party since 1940 (and we all know how that turned out).
For those who haven’t read up on this (and you should because it’s utterly fascinating), here’s how it went down 76 years ago: The eventual Republican nominee who hadn’t even won a state before that Philadelphia convention somehow gathered enough delegates on the floor to face FDR, who was seeking a third term. So with a brokered convention looking like a real possibility in 2016, get used to hearing the name Wendell Willkie, a lawyer and corporate executive who was a Democrat as recently as one year prior in 1939 — and once even a pro-FDR delegate — as your example that anything can happen at brokered convention, just as it did in 1940. Besides, couldn’t you totally see that scenario playing out this year? Because any result that makes little sense is completely possible during this roller-coaster campaign season…
Per USHistory.org’s account (emphasis mine around how all-time cable and network news ratings records would be shattered (likely tripled or more) if the following actually were to occur at a brokered convention in a world of 24/7 cable news and Twitter):
When Willkie’s name was put into nomination “pandemonium” broke out. The Bulletin (newspaper) describes a “deafening roar from the spectators.” The floor demonstration was a 20-minute melee as Willkie and anti-Willkie delegates fought over state signs. There was a good deal of shoving and a few noses bloodied before police cooled tempers.
On the first ballot, (Thomas) Dewey was ahead followed by (Robert) Taft and Willkie. Thereafter, Dewey steadily lost strength while Taft and Willkie picked up votes. On the fourth ballot Willkie was ahead but short of the 501 votes needed for nomination.
“Not since the turbulent 1920 convention which finally led to the nomination of the ill-fated Harding had the Republicans staged such a fierce fight,” wrote a Record reporter. “Both candidates (Taft and Willkie) went into the sixth round fighting furiously. The convention floor was the scene of hectic activity as the rival managers dashed back and forth fighting desperately for votes.”
On the sixth roll call — 1 a.m. Friday — Willkie finally went over the top.
Now… could you imagine if this kind of sequence happened come July? And live on national television? It would be both mesmerizing, patently compelling and absolutely one of the most memorable moments in U.S. political history. Twitter would literally break while talking heads would explode like something right out the ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Unfortunately, Willkie’s story doesn’t exactly have a happy conclusion, as he went on to win just 10 of 48 states. He would die of a heart attack less than four years later.
But in an age of Trump, a time of bombast, brutal candor, petulance, punching and chaos on the campaign trail, wouldn’t this kind of scenario playing out before our eyes only serve as a fitting end to the reality TV show that has been the fight for the GOP nomination?
In the meantime, the billionaire informed Fox this morning on its air that he’s done debating. “I think we’ve had enough debates,” he declared on Fox & Friends, citing a commitment to a speech he had scheduled instead of attending a Fox debate that was scheduled for March 21 in Salt Lake City. To date, Trump has done 11 debates (of 12). He dominates the online post-debate polls — most notably Drudge — every time despite answers that are simply repeats of overarching themes around making America great again, negotiating better trade deals with CHY-na and Mexico, building the wall, beating ISIS and bringing jobs back home (along with an update on the latest poll numbers).
But skipping Fox’s debate right before Iowa voted — by his own concession — was a bad idea. It did cost him votes in the Hawkeye State, with the winner Ted Cruz being the biggest beneficiary. If it looks like Trump is running from Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace, it’s because he is. Fox staggered Trump in the last debate (March 4th) via the use of full-screen graphics that contradicted his many dubious claims in real time. Given the applause the network received for doing so here and other places, it’s almost certain they would do it again.
To get into Trump’s thought process on the decision he announced this morning, I quote the great Bud Fox paraphrasing Sun Tzu’s Art of War in Wall Street I (the sequel never happened…do you hear me? It. Never. Happened.):
Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) to Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas): “Sun Tzu: If your enemy is superior, evade him. If angry, irritate him. If equally matched, fight, and if not split… reevaluate.”
The last scenario is Trump and Fox when it comes to this debate: He’s not equally matched, so he’s splitting and reevaluating. And even to a Trump supporter, it’s painfully obvious he doesn’t have the depth of knowledge to handle the more questions and airtime that come when splitting a stage with just two as opposed to 11 or 10 or even 6 or 4. As we’ve witnessed time and again, he simply repeats himself until the bell saves him like Apollo Creed at the end of Rocky I. By ducking the debate, he saves himself potential embarrassment, yes, but looks afraid in the process. And all the recent complaints on Twitter about Megyn Kelly (so much for that cease-fire) won’t change that obvious fact.
Watching other networks and local news. Really good night! Crazy @megynkelly is unwatchable.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 16, 2016
As for John Kasich, he made the right call here in taking a stand. No Trump, no contrast to make, no debate to take. And there’s no bigger contrast to Trump than the Ohio Governor, who easily topped expectations with an 11-point win in his home state. And unless Cruz was going to debate himself, obviously Fox had no choice here but to shut it down (Note: the network just confirmed via a statement that the March 21st debate in Salt Lake City has been officially cancelled).
Trump says no more debates are needed with 126 days to go to until the convention. Perhaps these kind of ill-advised decisions will help seal the deal for a reenactment of 1940 all over again, perhaps not.
Either way, get used to hearing the name Wendell Willkie a few hundred times between now and the quagmire in Cleveland…
Because thanks to fuzzy delegate math that just doesn’t add up to 1237 for any of the three candidates remaining, we’re heading straight into (highly, highly) rated made-for-TV chaos.
Fitting… is it not?
Follow Joe Concha on Twitter @JoeConchaTV
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.