Donald Trump has withdrawn from Thursday’s debate over Fox News’s refusal to replace Megyn Kelly as a moderator. He’s taking his ball and going home rather than facing the moderator who he feels targeted him with “gotcha” questions during the last Fox News debate. This from a guy who claims he’s the toughest candidate by far on ISIS, Putin, China, illegal immigration, and every other challenge America faces. If the Republican electorate has any collective sense, this will be Trump’s Dean Scream, the moment where his lack of presidential mettle is confirmed and his campaign is permanently derailed.
Trump promises he’ll “obliterate” ISIS, yet he runs and hides from a pretty, blonde female newscaster from a network that’s practically an extension of the RNC. He trumpets the “mutual respect” he putatively established with Putin when they spent 15 minutes together in a virtual green room before appearing on some banal talk show, but don’t you know Putin’s licking his lips at the thought of pupeteering this clown for four to eight years?
Trump excoriates his rivals, most notably Jeb Bush, for being “weak,:” but what’s weaker than not even showing up to look your adversary in the eye? Especially when said adversary isn’t the least bit intimidating? Ask Trump’s supporters why they favor him and you’re likely to get a heaping dose of pabulum about how he speaks his mind and doesn’t back down from anyone — but what do they think he’s doing by not showing up tonight?
Has a serious presidential candidate ever, in this country’s 240-year history, boycotted a debate because of the moderator? The answer is no, and that’s still the answer after Trump’s stunt, because despite leading the polls by double digits, Trump is not a serious candidate. He’s a reality TV blowhard who has managed to corral the least educated and most gullible faction of the Republican electorate and hypnotize them with a bunch of meaningless platitudes couched as “tough talk.” He’ll never be president. If Republicans are dumb enough to nominate him, he’ll get crushed Mondale-style in the general.
Unlike the primaries, the general election is decided by moderates and independents, not extremists from either party. Basically, 40% of the country will vote for the Republican no matter what, 40% will vote for the Democrat, and the remaining 20% decide the election. Moreover, the moderates who decide the election reside in only a handful of states: Florida, Ohio, Virginia, etc. These people do not like Donald Trump. His polling numbers are abysmal with undeclareds, particularly in swing states.
If you’re a Republican who’s been beguiled by Trump’s bombast, start practicing the phrase “President Hillary Clinton” until it sounds natural. You’ll hear it a lot between 2017 and 2021 if Trump gets the nomination.
Trump’s absence opens the door for the adults in the room, plus Rand Paul, to make their case for the presidency without a squirrel-headed distraction looming at center stage. If the GOP wants a chance at recapturing the White House, Rubio and/or Bush must seize this opportunity. They need to show up big tonight, establish momentum and then build on it. Republicans cannot win in November without one of those two guys at the top of the ticket (and they probably need Kasich at the bottom). Sorry, Cruz supporters, moderates hates your guy and he’ll get shellacked by Hillary.
I’ll close with this: Donald Trump is not a tough man. Donald Trump is not a principled man. Donald Trump is not a viable or qualified candidate for president. He’s a silver-tongued blowhard with skin thinner than an eel’s. He can dish it out but he can’t take it. He’s like scratch-off lottery tickets and payday lenders — he preys on those with the least education and least common sense.
But if he’s not man enough to show up on stage and go toe-to-toe with someone who sees through his facade, what’ll he do when Putin, or ISIS, or China, calls him out on a much larger stage? Given the challenges we face over the next four years, do you really want a president who’ll wilt and shout “that’s not fair!” when challenged?