GOP’s Debate Split Screen

January 29, 2016 by  

GOP’s Debate Split Screen, It was not really about the veterans. Donald J. Trump was putting on a show – and it was entirely about him: his hurt, his feelings, his vanity and his revenge.

Separated from the Republican debate here by three miles and enough chutzpah to fill his own auditorium, Mr. Trump taunted, derided and laughed off the candidates who showed up to the Fox News forum that he so theatrically snubbed Thursday evening.

Flying into Des Moines in his gold and leather-lined 757, he held his own one-sided debate, before an adoring crowd of 700, and mused about how his lesser opponents across town were coping with his absence.

Of Jeb Bush, he teased: “He’s probably looking for me.” Pretending to be a lost child, he imitated a frightened Mr. Bush. “Has anyone seen Trump? Where is Trump? Where is he?”

It was a measure of how peculiar this primary season has become that on a night when Mr. Trump abandoned an official, seemingly mandatory, party-sanctioned presidential debate in a fit of pique, he somehow managed to overshadow it from the start.

Whatever stage he is on, it seems, becomes the main stage, in his mind and those of his fans.

“This is where the show is,” said Aaron Haskin, 37, one of hundreds who waited in long lines in the chilly air to hear Mr. Trump. “It’s kind of a thumb to the establishment.”

Mr. Trump and Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, have both been described as master showmen. But Mr. Trump had ingredients that nobody else could dream of, drawing attention and energy away from the last debate before voting starts here on Monday.

Cable news networks offered saturation coverage, treating the arrival of Mr. Trump’s jet into the Des Moines airport with an avidity reserved for heads of state, an irresistible image opposite an empty debate stage. Graphics flashing across the screen documented the precise – but unbridgeable – distance between the two events. TV tickers breathlessly trumpeted his imminent arrival. “Awaiting Trump Event,” they blared.

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