Donald Trump is betting that he’s bigger than Fox News. Trump just wasn’t able to deal with the prospect that he would again have to take tough questions from Megyn Kelly in tonight’s Republican Presidential debate. The Donald was so upset about this that he decided he could no longer participate in the Fox News debate. Nor could Trump deal with the fact that Sen. Ted Cruz then challenged Trump to a debate between just the two of them. Trump decided to avoid that debate as well. That’s right, Trump chose to cut and run rather than suck it up and deal with Kelly, Fox News and Cruz. Instead, the billionaire chose to conjure up a charity event to compete with what Trump is gambling will be reduced media coverage for the debate.
CNN’s Eric Bradner finds Trump’s gamble risky. He may be mistaken. The Donald has completely dominated media attention since his formal announcement of his presidential candidacy. The Trump media attention saturation has not lessened during the final days before the Iowa Caucuses. If anything Trump’s cut and run stunt has further enhanced the attention the media gives him. And the polling, such as the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll finds Trump has regained his lead in Iowa. So it doesn’t appear that Trump’s taunting and running against Fox has or will hurt Trump.
Trump seems to understand what some Conservatives have noticed. In 2016, the conservative base is finally realizing that Fox News has become part of the Republican Establishment. As Dylan Byers writes, Fox News is more in line with the increasingly despised Republican Establishment than with Conservatives who support insurgent candidates like Trump and Ted Cruz. And Trump is tapping into the right’s anger against Fox:
Trump’s six-month war with host Megyn Kelly, which turned nuclear when he pledged to skip the Fox News debate that she is co-moderating on Thursday, has exposed a significant shift in the political-media landscape: The growing divide between ultraconservatives and Roger Ailes’ Manhattan-based network.
Trump’s attacks on the network — like those he’s made on Mexicans, Muslims, Sen. John McCain, and others — are no random acts of emotion, conservative pundits and campaign strategists told CNN. Instead, they indicate calculated tactical moves designed to stoke support among a conservative base that no longer worships Fox News as it once did.
Steve Deace, the Conservative Iowa radio host who is supporting Cruz agrees:
Most of my audience has a bipolar feeling about Fox News. They view it as the most reliable place to go for news coverage, but they have grown increasingly untrusting of it when it comes to analysis…. Their feeling is that most of the Bush establishment people they put on there — from Brit Hume to [Charles] Krauthammer to Karl Rove — have been in the tank all along for anybody other than Trump and Cruz.
Rush Limbaugh, took Trump’s side in this kerfuffle decision and lumped Fox News in with the rest of “the media.”
Roger Ailes deserves a lot of credit for this. It all goes back to 2011 when Ailes made his infamous “course correction” Howard Kurtz wrote about long before he was part of Fox News:
But as President Obama’s popularity has plummeted and the country has grown increasingly sick of partisan sniping, something unexpected happened. Roger Ailes pulled back a bit on the throttle.
He calls it a “course correction,” quietly adopted at Fox over the last year. Glenn Beck’s inflammatory rhetoric—his ranting about Obama being a racist—“became a bit of a branding issue for us” before the hot-button host left in July, Ailes says. So too did Sarah Palin’s being widely promoted as the GOP’s potential savior—in large measure through her lucrative platform at Fox. Privately, Fox executives say the entire network took a hard right turn after Obama’s election, but, as the Tea Party’s popularity fades, is edging back toward the mainstream.
The change was subtle at first, hardly noticeable to the casual Fox viewer. But before a year had passed, Conservatives were feeling alienated from Fox News. It has only gotten worse.
Trump may win his bet against Fox News. He may once again receive the bulk of tonight”s media’s coverage and even eclipse the coverage of the Republican Presidential debate. But Trump’s cut and run stunt will hurt him in the Iowa Caucuses. It will cause caucus goers who were leaning toward Trump to have second thoughts. No one but Trump’s hardcore supporters appreciate Trump acting like a spoiled brat.