Donald Trump quits debate to stay center stage – Politico

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The master of earned media gets himself more with six days left until Iowa.

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — Donald Trump did it again.

With less than 150 hours before the Iowa caucuses, Trump thrust himself squarely into the center of the political conversation and the news cycle with his surprise declaration that he would boycott the final debate before voting begins in Iowa.

Trump has blustered about boycotting debates multiples times before but never followed through. But the rhetoric Tuesday from Trump and his campaign team was, by far, the sternest and most forceful to date.

Ted Cruz, Trump’s chief Iowa rival, immediately challenged Trump to a one-on-one debate, as his aides and supporters tried to get the hashtag “#DonaldDuck” trending on Twitter.

At a combative press conference before a rally here, Trump said he wouldn’t participate in Thursday’s Fox News showdown because co-moderator Megyn Kelly is biased against him, and because he found Fox’s response to his concerns childish.

“Let’s see how they do at the debate,” Trump said. “Let’s see how many people watch.”

The 2016 GOP debates have drawn record audiences and Trump and his team have seemed to relish their leverage over the networks, which are converting those audiences into big ad dollars. Back in August, Trump challenged CNN to give $10 million to charity. The network didn’t. He appeared at its debate anyway.

Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told reporters that plans are already in the works for a competing event when Thursday’s debate is scheduled to air.

“We’ll have an event here in Iowa, with potentially another network, to raise money for Wounded Warriors and Fox will go from having probably 24 million viewers for the debate to, you know, 2 million viewers,” Lewandowski said.

Fox responded with heated rhetoric of its own.

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