Today is the day of the last Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses. Donald Trump has again managed to draw all the attention to himself by announcing that he is skipping the event. There are mixed views on whether this will hurt or help him. Some observers are saying that he has finally made a move that will hurt him, that his absence will enable the other candidates to beat up on him without any pushback and that Iowa voters will feel insulted by his absence and switch their votes. But such predictions of Trump missteps have come and gone without being realized before.
Others think that his absence will lower viewership for the debate and thus hurt his rivals. I don’t think anyone really knows. One thing that is sure is that interest in the event has declined though whether it will result in lower viewership remains to be seen. Assuming it is available for free online, I will be watching it, though I don’t expect to learn anything new.
One of the odd features of the Republican race for the presidency is that while Trump is leading in the polls, you would think that all the other candidates would be targeting him for destruction. In reality, almost all the other candidates have been attacking everyone else but him, thus making his stay at the top even easier. People in the GOP are now trying to finger who is to blame for Trump’s rise and launching belated attacks on him.
Here is one ad that is being run that paints Trump as being a liberal Democrat, using his own words from the past.
It is only very late in the game that Ted Cruz has started attacking Trump. This may be because Trump’s attacks on Cruz’s citizenship question has had an effect and stalled his rise in Iowa.
In general, the other candidates seem to think that Trump will eventually and somehow self-destruct and so the race has been to see who can emerge as the clear second and inherit his mantle. There have been refinements in this strategy. The candidates favored by the party establishment (Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and John Kasich) have been vying among themselves to end up at the top of their division. As a result, Rubio has been at the receiving end of their attacks with a Super PAC backing Bush leading the charge, as Ryan Lizza reports.
But, by late December, the group had mostly given up running pro-Bush ads or mentioning any candidate but Rubio.
Other campaigns and super PACs have also joined Bush in the destroy-Rubio strategy. A radio ad running in Iowa by the pro-Cruz super PAC Courageous Conservatives, says, “Marco Rubio betrayed our trust. Failed us. And he’s done nothing since coming to Washington but push for amnesty.” The ad campaign against Rubio may be working. While he was once on the rise nationally and in New Hampshire and Iowa, he has been stuck for weeks now.
Chris Christie has also ratcheted up his attacks on Rubio.
Rubio supposedly had a ‘3-2-1’ strategy for the first three contests, to come in third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire, first in South Carolina, and then lead the pack the rest of the way and cruise to the nomination. That does not seem to be happening, perhaps due to the attacks, in that he is at the moment third in Iowa with about 13%, fourth in New Hampshire with 10%, and third in South Carolina with 12%. So his 3-2-1 plan is currently 3-4-3.