If Republicans have balls, they will all turn on Donald Trump tonight at the Fox-moderated debate, in which Trump is choosing not to participate because moderator Megyn Kelly has criticized him for a host of misogynistic comments.
This is a huge moment for every other Republican presidential hopeful to once and for all professionally eviscerate the politically toxic GOP frontrunner. The candidate whose party struggles to agree on whether he is even a legitimate candidate for president.
For too long, the GOP has abandoned professional politics for near-sighted, minority party gain, but seven years into President Obama’s presidency it is time to return to professionalism. And it starts with kicking out their man-child celebrity fascist. Trump’s public cowardice, thin skin, and spoiled rich-kid, crybaby attitude are huge opportunities to exploit tonight.
To me, I cannot understand Trump’s strategy to sit this debate out. It is the last chance to nationally advertise his candidacy before the first Iowa caucus, and Trump’s entire campaign rests, somewhat exaggeratedly, on the idea that he is an undefeated winner. Skipping the debate tonight could allow runner-up Ted Cruz to eke out a victory, crumbling his façade of macho invincibility.
My only guess as to why this feud with Fox News is enduring through such an important, electoral moment is that Trump’s campaign figures he would fare better without opening his mouth. Throughout his entire campaign Trump has been railed in the media for saying divisive and xenophobic things, and in the debates he has been known for talking out of his ass (most notably on the Pacific trade deal in which Rand Paul had to remind him that China was not getting the better deal because China was not involved in the pact at all). For a politically inexperienced candidate like Trump, it may be best for him to simply say nothing at all.
However, his absence is a huge opportunity for the other Republican candidates. If the so-called “establishment” candidates—Marco Rubio, Chris Cristie, Jeb Bush, John Kasich—want to sink Trump’s campaign, tonight is the perfect moment. Trump has about 40% of Republican support for which they can compete if they successfully make the case that Trump is either in over his head, or a Republican In Name Only (RINO).
Neither is a difficult argument to make. The fact that Trump is physically not present on account of Megyn Kelly being mean to him is a sure sign that Trump is not presidential material, and if Trump is boycotting Fox News, of all news organizations, how can he expect to maturely negotiate with actually mean foreign leaders?
And as for being a legitimate Republican, Donald Trump is little more than an opportunist. Six months ago Trump declared that Democrat Bill Clinton was his favorite president.
The muddy part of attacking Trump, however, is the fear that Trump might decide to run third-party. If it appears that Fox News and every other Republican candidate has teamed up against him, Trump might commit fully to his patrician, crybaby instinct and try to sabotage Republican efforts in November out of childish revenge.
But Republicans need not fear Trump. I have researched the electoral probabilities of the GOP winning the presidential election, and the GOP just does not have the electoral math to win (check my math here) even if Trump does not run third-party. The path back to professional minority party politics starts with having legitimate candidates and sensible political platforms.
Tonight is the night the GOP can obliterate Trump’s neo-fascist, xenophobic campaign once and for all. And he won’t even be there to defend himself because he has likely conceded that he cannot.