Even After Being Absent In The GOP Debate, Trump Is Still Dominating

Trump didn’t need to be in the GOP debate because he already won the nomination. As we read in the Atlantic:

Instead of flying into Milwaukee to let his rivals take shots at the king, Trump opted for a more hospitable option: a Tucker Carlson interview aired on X, formerly known as Twitter. The intention was far from ambiguous. The former President relishes upstaging and outshining his adversaries, and siphoning away an audience for one of the biggest early events of the election epitomized a Trumpian tactic. It would serve to humiliate not only the other candidates running for the GOP nomination, but Fox News, the once-friendly network that has since turned against him.

There are signs that it worked. By the time the debate concluded, the pre-recorded 46-minute Carlson-Trump interview had amassed more than 80 million views, a number that will almost certainly exceed the debate’s viewership. At the same time, elsewhere on social media, Trump’s devotees were amplifying memes and clips that debased challengers like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, or ex-allies who abandoned their loyalty, such as former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

“President Donald J. Trump: the first man in history to win a debate without even being on the stage!” posted former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake. “The #GOPDebate is like watching high school kids do bad model UN,” added Donald Trump Jr. “FDR had radio. JFK had TV,” observed the right-wing provocateur Jack Posobiec. “Trump has social media.”

It was a plan in motion before the debate aired, and it helps to reveal a strategy at the center of Trump’s campaign: to cement the impression that he is not only the inevitable nominee but a force larger and more powerful than anything else in Republican politics.

That’s not crazy. Trump is currently leading in most GOP polls by as much as 40 percentage points. And while the four separate indictments against the former President might present the greatest threat to his presidential ambitions and personal freedom, it has only boosted him with Republican primary voters.

It’s a reality that the former President made clear in the first few minutes of the Tucker Carlson interview, which was recorded at Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey golf club. “I’m saying, Do I sit there for an hour or two hours, whatever it’s going to be, and get harassed by people who shouldn’t even be running for president?” He blasted Fox News as in the tank for his chief rival. “They were backing Ron DeSanctimonious like crazy.” And he found common grievance with Carlson, the network’s former prime time star. “I think it was a terrible move getting rid of you,” Trump told Carlson. “We’ll get bigger ratings using this crazy forum that you’re using than probably the debate, our competition.”