Trump to Moderate Republican Debate
December 2, 2011 By JEREMY W. PETERS
It’s officially a reality television Republican primary now.
Donald Trump is pairing up with Newsmax, the conservative magazine and news Web site, to moderate a presidential debate in Des Moines on Dec. 27.
“Our readers and the grass roots really love Trump,” said Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media. “They may not agree with him on everything, but they don’t see him as owned by the Washington establishment, the media establishment.”
Mr. Trump’s role in the debate, which will be broadcast on the cable network Ion Television, is sure to be one of the more memorable moments in a primary season that has already delivered its fair share of circus-like spectacle.
Mr. Trump’s own flirtation with running for president this year seems almost quaint (whose birth certificate was he all worked up about?) compared with more recent distractions – like allegations of adultery and sexual harassment, gaffes that seemed scripted from a late-night comedy show, and a six-figure line of credit at Tiffany & Co.
But despite being derided by liberals – President Obama likened Mr. Trump to a “carnival barker” for his repeated assertions that the president was actually foreign-born – the real estate mogul is seriously influential in many Republican Party circles. And that sway seems especially deep with the party’s conservative base, which will be a decisive factor in the early primaries that are likely to determine the nominee. The debate, which unlike many recent ones will not be limited to a specific topic like national security or the economy, is set to happen just a week before the Iowa caucuses.
Newsmax sent candidates the invitation on Friday afternoon. It began, “We are pleased to cordially invite you to “The Newsmax Ion Television 2012 Presidential Debate,” moderated by a truly great American, Mr. Donald J. Trump.” Spokesmen for several candidates did not immediately respond to questions from The New York Times about whether they would accept.
Though presidential candidates may initially balk at the idea of appearing in a debate where Mr. Trump – with his bombast and The Hair – is the one posing the questions, they may ultimately see it as an invitation they can’t refuse. In fact many of the candidates have already met with him, some more publicly than others. Representative Michele Bachmann has sat down with Mr. Trump several times this year. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas had dinner with him at Jean Georges, the posh Manhattan restaurant. And Mitt Romney paid a visit but carefully avoided being photographed.
And Newsmax is a powerful player itself. It has a broad reach into the conservative base, with monthly Web traffic second only to Fox News among sites with conservative-leaning audiences.
Mr. Trump has been a popular attraction at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual gathering in Washington. He was such a successful presence in the eyes of Fox News executives that they added a special weekly segment to their morning show “Fox and Friends” for him called “Mondays With Trump.”
Whether his professed presidential ambitions are genuine or merely a publicity stunt seems not to matter in terms of the news media attention Mr. Trump can command. His highly publicized flirtation with running this year coincided with a Trump-branded product that stood to benefit from all the attention – a new season of his highly rated NBC show “Celebrity Apprentice.”
The arc of his noncampaign was similar in 1987 and 1999 – when Mr. Trump also said that he was considering running for president, episodes that are often forgotten.
His book ”Trump: The Art of the Deal” was published in November 1987 and reached The New York Times best-seller list by December. But by the time the Republican National Convention rolled around in August 1988, he had opted out.
”Everybody wants me to do it,” he declared then. ”But I have no interest in doing it.”http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/...ublican-debate/