Maybe Trump Was Too Smart By-Half!
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Donald Trump finally may have made the first mistake in his campaign which even the Donald cannot fix; or lie his way out of. By not participating in the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucus, while it may not show up in the final pre-caucus Des Moines Register poll, Trump may have out smarted himself and insulted the Iowa caucus voters. It is the same rationale why he should have participated that it also made sense from his perspective to absent himself. He boycotted the debate, asserted his powerful, independent personality, and stood confident of his standing in the polls; but he also insulted the feelings of the Iowans as if to say “you need me.” Trump was telling the caucus voters in Iowa you have to vote for me because I am clearly the best; I know it; and I am not even afraid to boycott the final debate.
There were two problems with this reasoning which even came through during the debate. First, Iowans saw that there were alternatives to Trump. Second, at the end of the day, Trump’s hubris may have finally gotten the better of him. Now, he only has the weekend to repair the damage.
There is in addition, a serious organizational mistake which Trump may have made. The Iowa caucus on Monday night is not a five minutes deal where you vote and leave. It probably will last two to four hours before it is over. Everyone in Iowa does not caucus. Everyone in Iowa does not even have a history of going to the caucus. Polling numbers are not likely voters. Even those polls of likely caucus goers are far more unreliable than those of primary voters. The level of commitment to attend, participate, and last the night away requires a totally different type of political participant than does a voter in an election. Last minute changes, weather, health, family issues, can and will affect whether people are ready to commit all that time on Monday night. Finally, for many of the Trump—and Cruz—supporters this will be their first time participating in a caucus. The procedures are a bit arcane and there will be no Donald rooting them on, only the local Trump ground team.
Trump may well rue his decision to sit out this debate; regardless of his issues with Megan Kelly and Roger Ailes.