NEW YORK — Donald Trump is asking his fans: “Should I do the GOP debate?”
With two days to go until Fox News’ Republican primary debate in Iowa, Trump is taking a poll on his Twitter page. The respondents are evenly split, with half saying he should skip the event.
Trump is also asking his followers on Facebook and Instagram for feedback.
Fox News chairman Roger Ailes expects Trump to be center stage on Thursday night at what is the last GOP debate before the all-important Iowa caucuses.
But Trump is objecting to the involvement of moderator Megyn Kelly, who challenged Trump during Fox’s first debate back in August and will be back in one of the moderator chairs on Thursday.
Trump says Kelly is biased and shouldn’t be allowed to moderate. Fox rejects that and says Trump is just “fearful” of the TV host.
Fox responded on Tuesday afternoon with a tongue-in-cheek statement: “We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president — a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.”
On one level Trump’s bluster is building up anticipation for a “rematch” with Kelly.
But his Twitter poll on Tuesday afternoon may suggest a real reluctance to attend the debate. He could potentially cite the feedback from his fans as a reason for skipping it.
In an Instagram video that coincided with his poll, Trump said, “Megyn Kelly’s really biased against me. She knows that, I know that, everybody knows that. Do you really think she can be fair at a debate?”
Many of the hundreds of replies urged him to attend the debate; a smaller number supported him skipping it; and some commenters mocked him for being afraid of Kelly.
Trump arguably has the most to lose on Thursday night since polls show him in a commanding position in the Republican race for president.
“From a political standpoint… the thing that makes sense for him is just to sit back. To stand up at this debate and say as little as possible. Because when you’re winning, you don’t want to stir the pot,” CNN anchor John Berman said on Tuesday’s “New Day.”
Then again, pot-stirring is something “he’s really good at,” CNN media analyst Bill Carter said.
Carter suggested that Trump has “planted” the idea that Kelly will be unfair “so that maybe she isn’t as tough as she would be.”
Earlier in the week, after Trump told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Kelly treats him “really unfairly,” Fox said: “Sooner or later Donald Trump, even if he’s president, is going to have to learn that he doesn’t get to pick the journalists — we’re very surprised he’s willing to show that much fear about being questioned by Megyn Kelly.”