Trump Pulls Out of Fox News Debate

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Whether he actually becomes president or not, Donald Trump has provided politicians with a campaign that will be studied for decades to come. As media consumption becomes increasingly fractured and traditional TV ads lose the effectiveness they once had, candidates will find much to learn from Trump’s unerring ability to keep his name in the news. The question is whether anyone else will be able to follow the Trump playbook without orchestrating their own downfall.

Consider the latest. Trump, after yet another round of one-sided feuding with Fox News host Megyn Kelly, has announced that he will be skipping Thursday night’s GOP debate.

“Let’s see how much money Fox is going to make on the debate without me,” he said.

Obviously, few candidates now or in the future are likely to consider themselves such a ratings draw that they can pull a power play with the top-rated cable network on television. And it’s from that perspective that Trump may prove inimitable. He possesses the magic combination of pre-existing celebrity, a gambling spirit, and a message that you can’t quite hear anywhere else. He’s managed to survive controversies that would have crushed almost anyone else.

For their part, Fox News could have done a lot to nip this one in the bud a long time ago. Unfortunately, they chose instead to goad Trump in the press after he made some disparaging tweets about Kelly, who is scheduled to moderate the debate. “We learned from a secret back channel that the ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president,” the channel said in a statement. “A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.”

Uh-huh. This kind of snark is beneath Fox, but even if it wasn’t, it doesn’t match what’s actually going on here. There’s no reason to believe that Trump is actually scared of Megyn Kelly. How is it possible that they don’t understand that he’s using them for publicity? Trump-Kelly, Round 4. Another 24, 48, 72 hours of free coverage. Whether Trump shows up for the debate Thursday night or not, he’s practically guaranteed that it will be all about him. And if he puts on a competing event, carried live by one of Fox’s competitors, then he’s set up a ratings battle that he will almost certainly win.

“With me,” Trump said, “they’re dealing with somebody that’s a little bit different.”

Indeed, we all are. That’s what’s made this election season so interesting to watch.