Donald Trump may very well have pulled off the most spectacular media and political coup of all time in a Presidential campaign, defying the mighty Fox News Network and the mainstream media in the risky move of sitting out of the GOP/Fox News/GOOGLE Debate last night just a few days ahead of the Iowa Caucus vote.
As Reuters reported:
Trump dominated social media during the debate, leading the entire Republican pack in Twitter mentions throughout the first half of the debate, according to data from social media analytics firm Zoomph.
Trump was by far the most-searched-for candidate on Google during the first half of the debate, at one point outpacing the second-most-searched-for candidate, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, by nearly four-to-one, according to Google Trends data.
There are two ways to assess the situation, and the Presidential campaign political landscape in view of what has happened.
First: Fox News Could Strike Back And Retaliate Against Trump Now
Chairman Roger Ailes and his team are smart enough to realize that Trump has done no more than to take advantage of his considerable wealth, his political savvy, his business brand and his TV persona to shake up the GOP and the businesses of traditional Presidential campaigning and media coverage of Presidential candidates while the industry is going through the difficult and disruptive phase of transitioning from old media to new media.
Trump has a considerable advantage because unlike John or Jane Doe politician, he has been using probably for a decade or more in his business ventures and for the production and distribution of his television shows the various social media tools which make new media new media, and which has launched new era politics.
Politicians have utilized such tools only in recent years.
So while Trump’s political competitors and political media folks are new to tools of new era media, Trump is light years ahead of them, and is using the new era media tools deftly and with deadly effect. Thus, the state of the Presidential campaign playing field finds Trump ahead of the media in framing the issues and setting the agenda for the GOP contenders in Election 2016, instead of vice-versa: the media in its traditional role of issues framing and agenda setting.
Ailes now calls the shot.
Either take Trump down now, or roll with the flow, and take him out either take him out later or allow him to be crushed in the course of future political events.
Fox News has the arsenal of cash flow and the in-house talent to take Trump down now.
One apparent strategy would be for Fox News to deploy its senior African-American female hosts, Harris Faulkner, Lauren Green and Arthel Neville, in an unrelenting and no mercy media assault on Trump.
One could be dispatched to Iowa and assigned to the team following the Trump campaign; another could be assigned to work with the team in New Hampshire; and, the third could work with the general assignment team at headquarters. All three could appear on the various Fox News shows as co-anchors or special correspondents providing coverage on Trump and his campaign.
Trump can virtually say whatever he wants to say about Megyn Kelly, a white blond, because his barbs are not likely to gain much traction; but, he would dare not use that kind of invective or any other kind of abusive language against Faulkner, Green and Neville. Each of those women is a trained broadcast journalist with broad experiences who has a solid reputation in broadcast and cable media.
They literally could cut Trump to pieces along the campaign trail, and get away with it untouched by Trump.
Second: Fox News Could Wait, Strike Later Or Hold
Of course, Ailes could decide to hold back, let further political events unfold, and wait for a more opportune time to strike, or let the natural course of political events occur the let Trump sink in the process.
Assume that Trump can weather the storm, overcome the immediate crisis, get back on his feet, go forward and stay competitive in the GOP 2016 Primary.
Let’s say he wins Iowa and New Hampshire, or even comes in second in Iowa, but takes New Hampshire, Trump would be on his roll again, and would be favored to take the GOP nomination for President.
Fast forward, Trump wins the nomination.
He’s still would not be out of hot political water.
On the one hand, Trump could face Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee and General Election opponent.
That would bring him into a direct confrontation with Bill Clinton, one of the greatest and most successful natural-born American politicians of all time.
In that case, Fox News would not need to do anything because it could then focus on its agenda of defeating Hillary while Bill is beating down Trump, a scenario which would keep Fox News dominant as a leading mainstream political media organization, and one which would influence the issues framing and agenda setting for Election 2016.
On the other hand, Trump could face Bernie Sanders as the General Election opponent.
That’s potentially even a more toxic political scenario because Michael Bloomberg may very well be in contention as the Independent Presidential candidate, and the alignments could change drastically.
Not only would the Clintons be expected to shift their support to Bloomberg, there is a good chance that Fox News may do so as well, for strategic reasons and business reasons which this writer will discuss in later writings.
For now, Trump’s ‘House of Cards’ could be riding on a bubble-a bubble which can break temporarily in his favor, or one that can burst in his face and boot him out of contention for the Presidency.