Donald Trump appears to have set the chickens on the fox with his decision to snub Thursday's Fox News Republican debate. Will anyone tune in now the ringmaster of this circus has gone rogue…well more rogue?
Donald Trump’s decision to boycott the Republican Presidential candidates‘ debate on Fox ‘News’ is a master stroke - for Donald Trump, and in his world, that is all that matters.
It’s a disaster for Fox because Trump has sucked all the oxygen out of the Republican candidate line up, and is widely credited for pulling in a record breaking 24 million viewers to the August Fox debate.
Now as Fox is committed to screening its own debate, every other network will be at the competing Trump rally - the proceeds of which will be donated to returned veterans.
Trump will be playing by his own rules, as he is wont to do.
There will be no time buzzers on him.
He will be free to attack, free to exaggerate, free to boast about dealmaking, free to bask in his own glory and if there’s time, in the glory of his newfound favourite book - the Bible, free to gloat about how much money he has made for himself and of course, how much money his Thursday night absence will cost Fox.
That will learn them to assume he has no choice but accept “lightweight reporter” Megyn Kelly as debate moderator.
From the second Trump pulled out, cable news has been obsessed with him...well more obsessed if that is possible.
Breathlessly, hosts ponder the audacity of a candidate not conforming to the ‘rules’ of election campaign debates.
Even the BBC is in on the act, marveling at the effrontery of a leading candidate to blank a debate.
Trump’s team seems to be reveling in the chutzpah of their man...sincerely believing that those who support his anti-establishmentarian stance will be wowed by his nerve.
For the likes of Ted Cruz who is desperately trying to tar Trump with the brush of the Establishment, Trump has answered by cocking a snoop at one of the most prevailing establishment rituals - candidate debates.
Trump’s announcement has almost broken cable news channels in North America because that is all anyone is talking about.
Wall to wall coverage including one on one interviews with everyone from Trump friend Rudi Giuliani to star struck Trump supporters (Trumpeters perhaps?), political panels, business analysts, more political panels, more Trump press advisors, more Trump, old Trump interviews, Trump tweets, reaction to Trump tweets, hosts wondering aloud if Trump is brave, stupid, calculating, clever, arrogant, foolhardy....Trump, Trump, Trump.
It is unrelenting.
It will stay that way for all the hours left between now and the debate scheduled for Thursday night (US time).
During the debate the other candidates will take the opportunity to lash out at the front-runner for the job they all want.
They will bravely rise to sneering, sarcastic anti-Donald pinnacles, safe in the knowledge that the reality telly King is not there to swat them back to size or call them out as he has done in previous debates.
There will be no pouty Trump expressions for the cameras.
No twin screens of Donald vs Ted.
Will Jeb finally shine? Will Ted put aside his nasty side? Will Ben stay awake?
Who will care?
It is not as if Trump was voted off the island.
He left the island. Packed his board and buggered off to taunt the remaining contestants from his own golden island.
Post debate the focus will be on the impact of the absence of Trump.
What were the ratings? Did they hold up for the entire two hours?
Did Fox mock its former darling?
Did Megyn go from lightweight to heavyweight?
When the centre of attention left the building should not everyone else have just gone home?
Meanwhile, Trumpeters will have been cajoled into turning up in big numbers and donating big time in order for the Trump rally to hold its own and more against the debate.
Before you know it, Monday’s Iowa Caucus will be upon us, and cable news will speculate on how the temerity of skipping the debate may/will hurt Trump.
Then we will see if indeed it did hurt/help Trump, closely followed by what does this mean for Trump in the New Hampshire Primary a few days further out.
This US Presidential race has done more than any other I can remember in proving ‘news’ is now a 24-hour sausage factory, and currently, Trump owns that factory.
Of course the debate sans Trump could be a raging success, full of erudite philosophy, pithy one-liners, bold new policies, charm, wit, charisma, manners and well honed and sincere statements delivered straight down the barrel of the camera to Americans waiting at home with bated breath to endorse at least one of the best and the brightest America has to offer.
Then you wake up.