Trump’s gamble too large in Iowa

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Trump’s gamble too large in Iowa

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Here’s something you won’t hear too often: the Editorial Board of the University News would like to applaud the Fox News network for its journalistic integrity.

Yes, you read that right. The conservative, 24-hour cable news network, frequently lampooned for its heavily biased, sensationalized reporting, actually took a pretty noble stand for the freedom of the press.

When viewers tuned in to Fox News for the latest GOP debate last Thursday, Jan. 28, they may have noticed a Trump-sized hole in the room.

The Republican frontrunner threatened not to appear in the debate unless news anchor Megyn Kelly was replaced as its moderator. Fox News refused to bow to Trump’s demands and, accordingly, Trump followed through, opting instead to hold a fundraiser for veterans at the same time.

This confrontation was the latest escalation of an ongoing feud between Trump and Kelly, stemming from what Trump believed to be “unfair” treatment from Kelly in the first GOP debate in August.

In the August debate, Kelly asked Trump about several derogatory remarks he had made towards women and questioned whether he had the right “temperament” to be president. In the months following the debate, Trump ridiculed Kelly in a series of Twitter rants and even temporarily boycotted the entire Fox News network.

Though not out of line with his character, Trump’s grievances are petty and simply ridiculous. A journalist’s job is to ask tough, probing questions—to be “pushy,” even. His remarks about women were both public and controversial, and therefore, fair game. Moreover, Kelly didn’t seem to be “targeting” the frontrunner specifically; she asked equally pointed questions of all the candidates on the stage, not just Trump.

In a statement, Fox News president Roger Ailes reiterated his support for Kelly and mocked the accusations, sarcastically claiming, “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.”

This isn’t the first time that Trump has tried to bully the press for its unflattering coverage of him. In other cases, though, he was more successful. The Republican National Committee disinvited the National Review from the Feb. 25, debate in Houston for publishing a harsh editorial criticizing Trump; likewise, Trump took credit for getting the Union Leader, a New Hampshire newspaper that endorsed Chris Christie, removed from an upcoming ABC debate.

Trump’s relationship with the media poses a baffling conundrum: Though he frequently attacks reporters, journalists and media outlets, often on a personal level, he relies on them for the unprecedented media coverage that fuels his campaign.

Republican politicians have a long history of blaming the “mainstream media” for its alleged liberal bias. But Trump seems to be taking this rhetoric to a whole new level by taking on a colossal network widely known for its conservative slant. It shouldn’t be surprising; Trump has been rewriting the rules of politics since he first entered the race.

Still, abstaining from the final debate before Iowa voters cast their ballots is a risky move. Did it pay off?

Not quite. Trump boldly predicted that his rival event, a fundraiser for veterans, would garner national publicity and even surpass the debate in terms of viewership. Though he did receive substantial coverage for his antics, Fox News tallied 12.5 million viewers for the debate—the second lowest of the season for the GOP—the estimated 2.7 million that tuned in to Trump’s event is still far below those who viewed the debate.

To add to his troubles, the “elephant not in the room” was only briefly mentioned in Thursday’s debate, which was for the most part a levelheaded, issue-oriented discussion. His absence allowed rivals like Cruz and Rubio to show their worth to undecided voters.

But most damning of all came the results from Iowa. Trump lost badly to rival Cruz, and only barely managed to slip by Rubio for a disappointing second-place finish. Even Trump has admitted that his decision might have cost him the state.

It seems that Trump’s gamble was a tremendous flop. Still, it remains too early to tell if this one bad hand will cost him the game. Primary season has only just begun, and Trump maintains a strong lead in upcoming New Hampshire. Besides, if this past year has taught us anything, logic and expectations seem to have no effect on Donald Trump.

One final caveat: In 1980, another entertainer-turned-GOP presidential candidate skipped the final debate before Iowa—and subsequently lost the state—before going on to claim the nomination.