Dear Candidates: You Needed Trump on That Stage

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Fri, Jan 29 - 1:42 pm EDT | 2 years ago by
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Kiraspondence - Debate without Trump

I was actually looking forward to the debate on Thursday night. While in the beginning I was a huge fan of the Donald Trump Circus, the amount of televised time the reality star was sucking up on the debate stage was beginning to annoy me. Already we have way too many presidential candidates – so much so that we actually have something we call a kids’ table debate. It gets hard to properly investigate and analyze each candidate’s performance fairly when they only get a few minutes per debate.

Trump added a celebrity flare to the whole process that I initially found quite entertaining – but as the debates went on, it became quite clear that the “flare” was the biggest part of his campaign strategy. I started wishing I could hear more from the rest of you on stage, but every every time someone else like Rand Paul or Carly Fiorina got a smidgen of recognition from the anchors (no matter the network), it was almost always a question about Trump. Trump was a time-sucker, and I’m not a huge fan of time-suckers (looking at you, Candy Crush).

So hearing the news that Trump was skipping the debate gave me a little hope. Understandably Trump fans were disappointed and even angry with Fox News and/or Megyn Kelly, but as a pundit I was thrilled for the opportunity to see how these candidates would perform without The Trump Follies on the main stage. Poor Ben Carson, with his sweet, sleepy self…would he finally get a chance to speak longer than 30 seconds? I mean, it takes at least half that time for him to get over the surprise of being asked something in the first place.

So a Trump-less debate we had, and as someone who is not a Trump supporter I must say…you guys needed Trump on that stage.

There are probably a bunch of different reasons why his presence was so sorely missed. The most obvious is that he’s simply entertaining. Political junkies and you other candidates might be irked by his showmanship but the ratings don’t lie – Trump is entertaining if nothing else. You want to know what he’s going to say next, even if you think you’ll hate it.

Without Trump, Ted Cruz was the frontrunner. However, being in first is a lot different than being in second. There’s a certain underdog quality that comes with second place, and that’s a good thing. Now the top dog on stage, Cruz wasn’t just the new target, he was also the new asshole.

With Trump on stage constantly poking and prodding him, Cruz has so far been able to play “the bigger man.” His easy, witty comebacks to Trump’s insults only endeared him more to viewers and supporters. In the media, Trump is evil and correspondingly anyone on the other end of his wrath is good. Cruz’s bump came from that relationship.

On the Trump-less stage, Cruz didn’t change his debate strategy enough. He still complained about getting good questions, staying on task and getting fair time. In the past it felt like he was standing up to Trump but on that Fox News stage it just seemed whiny; it was out of place without the Donald as a foil.

You candidates did get more time but you were still asked to respond to Trump. I can only imagine how frustrating it is to continue to have to share the stage with the Ghost of Reality TV Past when you know your time in this election cycle is running out. Trump wasn’t even there and everyone still spent an inordinate amount of time talking about him. You can’t buy that kind of political mojo. It’s a special kind of voodoo.

Without Trump, it was clear some of you were trying to fill the “anger” void, perhaps in an attempt to pull some of those viewers that cotton to Trump’s style of bloviating. Marco Rubio seemed the most determined to fill that role – and it did not suit him. His typical patriotic passion tipped over into grumpiness and it was not becoming, although he did right himself towards the end of the debate.

Without Trump, there wasn’t as much humor. Oh sure, some folks tried to get a little jab in every now and then but the most vital part of a comedy team is the straight man. The entire GOP field has been playing the straight man in Trump’s act for a long time. With the main event missing, the straight man just looks…well…straight.


It was clear to me that while I have many complaints about Mr. Trump, his presence was needed on that stage. I was glad to get to hear more of you speak and answer questions important to me as a voter (nice to see Paul get some more time). That part is true, but as much as I’m loathe to admit it, the stage just wasn’t the same without Donald Trump. I think you need Donald Trump. Yes, he sucks up a lot of time but he also gives a valuable opportunity to create a stark contrast between yourselves and The Donald – and that isn’t a bad thing.

Trump’s schtick draws the slings and arrows that would otherwise be aimed at you all. He creates a buffer between you and your audience that blurs your less attractive qualities. A lot of viewers and voters (especially the agenda-driven mainstream media) are finding themselves saying: “Anyone but Trump.”

It’s easier for people to understand that you’re not Trump when he’s standing next to you on a debate stage.

Sorry…hate to say it…but you need him.



Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Kira Davis is a writer, video blogger and homeschool mother of two. She has interviewed President Obama and appeared on Fox News, The BlazeTV and the Dr. Phil Show. Kira is a dog person but she owns a cat anyway. You can find her on Twitter @RealKiraDavis.

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  • sheryl2

    I have to disagree, I thought it was a much better debate and for the Republican party in general. I’m sick & tired of Trump 24/7. I heard that someone at a rally this week actually threw a couple of tomatoes at him, something that I don’t condone, but I felt like it was prescient to Trump’s campaign antics. Trump deciding not to be on that stage underscored that optic. Exit question to Trump, I he didn’t bother to show up, why should his supporters bother to caucus?

  • paul

    Trump is a very serious candidate. Obviously people have a lot of time to spend on bread & circuses and zero time to go to: to read Donald J Trump’s official positions so they might actually understand some business policy.
    As a result I have no sympathy for people that allow the media to make a clown show out of choosing who will be in charge of the most powerful country on planet earth!
    Shockingly, my media comment includes you Kira! Kira, I thought better of you until now.

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