On MSNBC yesterday Donald Trump and the host of “The Daily Rundown,” Chuck Todd got into a shouting match about who was telling the truth. At issue was Todd’s reporting of polls of Iowa and New Hampshire voters showing that an endorsement by Trump would likely cause them not to vote for Trump’s candidate for president by nearly two-to-one. The video can be seen here:
Trump took issue with Todd’s claim that Trump had asked for a chance to respond to those polls, saying that MSNBC had first approached him: “Your people called my office about 40 times!” Todd backed off but persisted in soliciting Trump’s response to those polls. Trump dismissed them out of hand, calling them faulty, because “I have a huge following of people,” and besides he studied polls while a student at the Wharton School in Pennsylvania, implying that those polls lacked validity and credibility.
Later that day Trump appeared again on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell, a longtime critic of Trump. O’Donnell referred back to those same polls and asked if they didn’t reflect what he called Trump’s “poisoned handshake,” saying
Donald, I really do believe that somebody will be worse off if you endorse a Republican candidate for president. And I don’t believe you studied polls at Wharton, and I don’t believe you know a lot about polls. You were an undergraduate at Wharton for two years in the mid-1960s. That’s practically before polls were invented.
O’Donnell concluded by noting that “Wharton teaches business, not political science,” and called Trump a “reflexive liar.” That clash can be viewed here:
Trump’s ego was clearly bruised by Ron Paul’s rejection of Newsmax Media’s invitation to attend the Iowa Republican presidential debate on December 27th, calling Paul “cutesy” who has some “nice little slogans” but with no chance of winning the nomination.
If I endorse somebody, I’m with that person. But if somebody else gets in who I think is somebody that I don’t think is appropriate for the job, [who] I don’t think would [do] well and would maybe not be a good president, and if the economy continues to be bad, I would run as an independent, yes.
I don’t want to do that, I love what I’m doing, and I’m doing it well, but if…if…those circumstances happen to happen, I would do that, yes…
I probably would get really great ratings. I’m a ratings machine for whatever reason, that’s what they say in all of the newspapers anyway.
To clarify his remarks, on Monday Trump issued a statement through Newsmax, a co-sponsor of the Iowa debate, saying he had no intention of running after all:
I have been deeply flattered that so many people have asked me to run for President.
First, when I was considering a Republican bid, and I led in national polls. Since then, some have even suggested I run as a third party candidate.
Let me be clear: I do not want to run as a third party candidate. My priority, my number one priority, is to defeat Barack Obama in 2012. I want to support and endorse the Republican candidate for president…
Almost every major candidate has come to my office, met privately with me and has sought my endorsement.
I have told them what I have said publicly. I will support the Republican candidate best able to defeat Barack Obama and the one who shares the values of most Americans: a strong belief in the free enterprise system and an unwavering commitment to a strong America.
To this end, I have agreed to moderate The Newsmax ION Television 2012 Presidential Debate. Millions of Americans will tune in. This will give me and America a fantastic opportunity to vet these candidates…
My sole priority is to accomplish this mission.
But later that same day, while promoting his new book on Today’s “Matt Lauer Monday” show Trump said he would consider running once again. If “the wrong candidate is nominated to run” and “it’s a candidate that’s not going to win and not very good,” then he would “certainly think about running as an independent.”
There are indications that the Iowa debate may turn out to be a disaster for Trump and Newsmax. With Trump’s “variability” on the issue of his running, the conflict of interest as moderator of the debate is blatantly obvious. Karl Rove said on Fox News “What the heck are the Republican candidates doing showing up at a debate with a guy who says, ‘I may run for president next year as an independent?’ The Republican National Committee chairman ought to step in and say we strongly discourage every candidate from appearing.” Republican strategist Mike Murphy echoed Rove: “GOP candidates would be foolish to show up at Trump’s clown circus/debate. Walk away.” Jon Huntsman, who also turned down Trump’s invitation to the Iowa debate, was more colorful about his decision not to attend: “I’m not going to kiss his ring and I’m not going to kiss any other part of his anatomy. That’s exactly what is wrong with politics. It’s show business over substance.”
If Trump goes on to “moderate” the Iowa debate as planned, it will, no doubt be memorable, being moderated by a TV reality show host with apparently little interest in nothing more than getting good ratings for himself. Candidates Paul, Huntsman and Romney made the right decision to stay far, far away from this circus.