The Republican Party held its latest debate on the night of Jan. 28. Seven of the leading candidates for the presidential nomination were present, but one was conspicuously absent, and he made sure everyone knew it.
Donald Trump was very much not present at this debate, yet the most fascinating thing about it is that he won it anyway.
At the outset of this election cycle, I, like many other political viewers, wrote Trump off as a non-issue. There was simply no way that he would have the attention span to actually pursue the presidency; furthermore, there was simply no way that he’d ever attract public support.
Well, the pundits of the nation have been completely blown away, as have I, as Trump first gained, then secured, the lead in the Republican race. I feel that “dominated” is a strong word to use, but Trump has simply dominated the field. His policies range from reasonable and clear to barbaric and maddeningly vague, but he wins with them anyway. Jabs from his opponents simply don’t stick, and his attacks on other candidates carry a certain weight to them that no one else can match. Call it a perfect storm, but Trump has certainly swept the nation.
It is with a certain amount of irony that I say Trump won this debate without being there. He thrives on media attention, and one could say that this was totally out of character. I, on the other hand, would argue that it was perfectly in line with his normal behavior. I thought Trump an utter buffoon, but by now I’ve realized that he is a master in public manipulation. He has the United States eating out of the palm of his hand, with no one the wiser for it.
He had everything to lose at this debate; one gaffe could cost him the candidacy, as it has for so many before him (although, with his current record, I don’t know what he could possibly do to invoke the ire of his voting base). His opponents were out for blood; every single one wants to take down the front runner.
So, instead, in a brilliant maneuver, Trump simply didn’t give them the chance. He instantly stole the show, as the nation was in an uproar over the leading candidate skipping the debate; all eyes were on him. Instead, he aired a fundraiser for veterans—a move vastly appealing to conservatives, if not nearly everyone—and raised $5 million in one night, as his opponents spent the evening trading snipes at each other. Incredibly, Trump got more attention than every other candidate put together, and he wasn’t even there.
I have to hand it to Donald Trump. Many thought his candidacy was a fluke and that he was just another arrogant rich man teasing the idea of a presidential bid. His actions since have proven both of these ideas irrevocably false. Trump is an incredibly gifted persuader, and I sincerely believe he has the potential to win the primaries.
And yes, Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucus, Trump came in a close second. But I know this: It’s still going to be an uphill battle for everyone else. How can you beat Trump if he’s not even there?
Danny Miles is a second-year student who is now completely fascinated by Trump. Still not voting for him, though