Almost everyone who is anyone is saying that Donald Trump not appearing at the Fox News debate in Des Moines, IA will have no impact on Donald Trump and might help him. I understand the issue and view. After all, every time Trump has defied conventional wisdom it has helped him.
I think people thinking that get this one wrong though.
This is the first and only Republican debate in Iowa. Iowa voters take their politics and their caucuses extremely seriously. Look at last summer and the Scott Walker debacle where he had to cave to outraged Iowa Republicans over hiring Liz Mair.
Iowa voters want to see the candidates, they want the candidates to eat the fried garbage at the state fair, and they want the candidates to show up at their debates. It is part of the state’s pride, like eating fried pork sandwiches.
Donald Trump is going to do a competing event in Iowa, but he is not showing up at the only Iowa debate. His reason? Megyn Kelly asked him about calling women “pigs” and, when Fox refused to ditch her this time, he got upset.
I think that would work to his advantage were this not the only Iowa debate right before the Iowa caucuses. But given that, I think it backfires on him.