During Fox News' February 1 coverage of the 2016 Iowa caucuses, Fox News figures repeatedly linked GOP candidate Donald Trump's lower than expected performance against candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) to his decision to withdraw from a Fox News debate following an argument over the debate moderator. Polls attributed Trump's defeat to Ted Cruz's overwhelming support among evangelical voters.
Ted Cruz Beats Donald Trump In Iowa Caucuses Thanks To Strong Conservative And Evangelical Turnout
Wash. Post: "Cruz Dominated Trump Among Strong Conservatives." The Washington Post explained that Ted Cruz won the 2016 Iowa Caucus “Powered by enormous support from very conservative voters”:
Cruz earned the support of 4 in 10 “very conservative” voters in the state, a group which made up 40 percent of the electorate according to preliminary entrance poll data. Cruz was also backed by 1 out of every 3 evangelical voters -- an important victory in a group that accounted for nearly two-thirds of the electorate.
LARGE EVANGELICAL TURNOUT
Cruz leads among evangelical Christians, who made up 64 percent of Republican caucus-goers, up 7 points from 2012. Cruz garnered about one-third of the evangelical vote, compared with just over 2 in 10 apiece for Rubio and Trump. Trump's barely topped Rubio among non-evangelical Republicans (29 to 26 percent), though they made up fewer than 4 in 10 caucus-goers, lower than 2012 or 2008.
CRUZ DOMINATED TRUMP AMONG STRONG CONSERVATIVES
Preliminary entrance poll results show Ted Cruz dominated among Republicans who identify as “very conservative,” a group which made up about 4 in 10 caucus-goers. Cruz garnered over 40 percent of their support, doubling Trump at about 2 in 10 and Rubio slightly below that level. The other large ideological group in the contest were “somewhat conservative” Republicans, a large but critical group across Republican contests. Cruz won 19 percent among this group while Trump won 24 percent and Rubio won 29 percent. Trump performed best with moderates (garnering 34 percent), but they accounted for just 14 percent of the GOP electorate. [The Washington Post, 2/1/16]
Fox Figures Attribute Trump's Performance In Iowa To Him Skipping The Network's Debate
Fox's John Roberts: Trump “May Come To Rue The Day That He Did Not Show Up For The Final Debate.” During the February 1 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ, John Roberts stated that Donald Trump “may come to rue the day that he did not show up for the final debate on Thursday night”:
JOHN ROBERTS: Also Bret, interesting to point out that Donald Trump did not do particularly well with people who decided late. Marco Rubio seems to be doing better with them, so he may come to rue the day that he did not show up for that final debate on Thursday night because a lot of people were looking to that debate for some signals on how to make up their mind. Trump was not there. Many late deciders may have looked at that and said, you know, I'll go a different way. [Fox News, America's Election HQ, 2/1/16]
Fox's Dana Perino: Trump Defeat “Is A Direct Result From The Debate Last Thursday.” During the February 1 edition of America's Election HQ Fox News' Dana Perino argued that Trump's performance in the Iowa caucus was a “direct result” of his decision to skip the Fox News' Republican presidential debate:
MEGYN KELLY (HOST): The numbers in those two polls are pretty good for Marco Rubio.
DANA PERINO: They are. And I think there is a direct result from the debate last Thursday. We knew that from 2012 that about 45 percent of people decided after the last debate in 2012. I think that looks like it could be true this time as well. [Fox News, America's Election HQ, 2/1/16]
Fox's Charles Krauthammer: Rubio's Great Performance Is Because He “Did Well In The Debate And Trump Was A No-Show.” During the February 1 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ, Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer attributed GOP candidate Marco Rubio's performance in Iowa as result of Trump as a “no-show” in the Fox News Debate:
BRET BAIER (HOST): Charles, what does this say, if anything, this early about Donald Trump's choice not to show up at the debate? Anything?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Well, I'm not sure that you can draw a firm conclusion, but the fact that he's getting half the late deciders, I mean, half as many of the late deciders as Rubio, would indicate that he's rising and perhaps part of it is a result that Rubio did well in the debate and Trump was a no-show. [Fox News, America's Election HQ, 2/1/16]
Fox's Bret Baier Wonders Whether "The Debate Had Any Effect On These Numbers?" During the February 1 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ, host Bret Baier asked if “the debate had any effect on” Trump's poor performance in Iowa:
BRET BAIER (HOST): Laura, looking at the numbers and the surge that perhaps other candidates, Ted Cruz, Rubio had, do you think that the debate had any effect on these numbers?
LAURA INGRAHAM: Could very well have. This was a strategy call by Donald Trump in the end, and they made a call that it was probably going to be better for him not to go into the debate. But, you know, look, time will tell. This is very tight tonight, and he didn't spend as much time doing the retail politics in Iowa that other candidates like Ted Cruz did. [Fox News, America's Election HQ, 2/1/16]
Fox's Stephen Hayes: “I Think It's Fair To Conclude That” Skipping The Fox News Debate Hurt Trump. During the February 1 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ, host Bret Baier asked “can we definitely say that not going to the debate hurt Trump,” prompting the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes to state “I think it's fair to conclude that”:
BRET BAIER (HOST): I've asked it a couple times, but can we definitively say that not going to the debate hurt Trump, a strategic error, that close?
STEPHEN HAYES: I mean, I don't think you can point to that and make a definitive conclusion, but all of the data that we have about the decision, about the timing of the swing of support to a Marco Rubio, Donald Trump didn't pick up many of the late deciders at all -- at a time when people were making the decisions in this last several days. So yeah. I think it's fair to conclude that. I don't think you can necessarily make a one to one causal argument but it certainly looks like that. [Fox News, America's Election HQ, 2/1/16]
Fox's Kirsten Powers: Trump “Paying A Price” For “Missed Opportunity” At Fox News Debate. On the February 1 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ, Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers argued that Donald Trump “missed an opportunity” by not attending the Fox News presidential debate:
KIRSTEN POWERS: We've talked a little bit about the fact that Trump missed an opportunity to make his closing arguments and it looks like he's paying a price for it here. [Fox News, America's Election HQ, 2/1/16]
Fox's Neil Cavuto: It's “Loud And Clear How Different This Night Might Have Been” Had Trump “Participated In That Debate.” On the February 1 edition of Fox Business' Cavuto: Coast to Coast host Neil Cavuto speculated how different the Iowa caucuses would have gone had Trump participated in the Fox News GOP debate:
NEIL CAVUTO (HOST): I do think that one thing that's going to come through loud and clear is how different this night might have been for Donald Trump -- and this isn't just because I work at Fox -- had he participated in that debate. [Fox Business, Cavuto: Coast to Coast, 2/1/16]
Donald Trump Withdrew From Fox News Debate After Argument With The Network
Trump Withdraws From Fox News Debate Days Before Iowa Caucuses. On January 26, Donald Trump's campaign told reporters that he would not be participating in the January 28 Republican primary debate in Iowa after a public clash with debate co-sponsor Fox News. From Reuters:
U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump withdrew on Tuesday from a debate with party rivals this week out of anger at host Fox News (FOXA.O), leaving the last encounter before Iowa's pivotal nominating contest without the front-runner.
Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, told reporters after a combative news conference held by the candidate that Trump would definitely not be participating in the debate scheduled for Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, and co-hosted by Google (GOOGL.O).
During the news conference before he addressed a large crowd in Marshalltown, Iowa, Trump expressed irritation that Fox News planned to leave in place as a moderator the anchor Megyn Kelly, whose questioning of Trump at a debate last August angered him.
He also expressed displeasure at a Fox News statement on Monday night saying Trump would have to learn sooner or later that “he doesn't get to pick the journalists” and that “we're very surprised he's willing to show that much fear about being questioned by Megyn Kelly.”
Trump has been engaged in a public spat with Fox News since the network hosted the first debate and Kelly asked Trump about his treatment of woman, prompting a stream of insults from the candidate. [Reuters, 1/27/16]