NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Five days before the vote comes around in Iowa, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has thrown the conventional political playbook out the window once again.
There are still about a dozen GOP candidates seeking the presidential nomination, but they have complained that it’s hard for them to spread their message with Trump in the race.
On Tuesday, Trump made headlines once again by announcing he wouldn’t be participating in Wednesday’s GOP Debate — the candidate’s final chance to sway potential voters before the upcoming Iowa caucus.
“Let them have their debate and let’s see how they do with their ratings,” Trump said.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, Trump has appeared on Fox News Channel 132 times this campaign season – far more than any other network.
But Trump pulled out of the debate because Fox News refused to replace Megyn Kelly as the debate moderator, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“I was not treated well by Fox,” he said on “The O’Reilly Factor.”
On Wednesday, Trump asked whether turning the other cheek would not be a better response.
“It probably is,” he said. “But you know, it’s called, ‘eye for an eye’ I guess also – you can look at it that way,” Trump said.
Kelly and Trump weren’t always at odds — during the 2012 campaign, Kelly asked Trump about accepting a job to moderate a national debate. Trump declined, saying: “no, I could never beat you — that wouldn’t even be close…you have done a great job.”
Ted Cruz, Trump’s closest competitor in Iowa, took to social media to criticize Trump’s decision. The politician posted an image to Twitter of Trump’s head PhotoShopped on the body of Disney character Scrooge McDuck, alongside the hashtag #DuckingDonald.
“Apparently Megyn Kelly is really, really scary,” Cruz said.
Cruz has also issued “Make Trump Debate Again,” hats — a jab at Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” campaign signature.
Trump fired back to Cruz’ criticisms, taking to Twitter with his on comments about where the two candidates would debate — a subtle reference to a claim surrounding Cruz’ eligibility to run for president in the United States.
Political experts are divided on whether Trump’s decision was the right move.
Political consultant Gerry O’Brien thinks Trump’s debate dodge opens the candidate up to easy criticism.
“If he can’t handle a hostile debate, how’s he going to handle China or Russia or any of the other 1,001 problems that are going to confront the next president of the U.S.?” O’Brien said.
“Donald Trump doesn’t realize you can pick a war with other politicians, but you don’t pick a war with the press,” Mitchell Moss, of New York University, said. “He’s making a terrible mistake.”
But others said it was a strategic move for Trump.
“It was a smart decision, just another one of these big plays that focuses on him,” said Doug Muzzio of Baruch College. “He’s a showman — in a sense, he’s got his own reality show.”
For his own part, Trump tried to spin it all as a sign of his toughness.
”I’m not going to let our country be taken advantage of,” he said.
Meanwhile, with polls on the Democratic side giving Bernie Sanders a slight lead, Hillary Clinton is calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to help win over voters.
Sanders met with President Obama in a meeting at the White House this week. Obama beat Clinton during the Iowa caucus in 2008.
“I think he [Obama] and the vice president have tried to be fair and even-handed in the process and I expect they will continue to be that way,” Sanders said.
The next GOP debate will take place Thursday, Jan. 28 at 9 p.m.