Trump Fuels Debate Interest

I was at the gas station over the weekend when the man who works the counter, originally from somewhere in Africa, asked me if I was getting ready for Aug. 6. I was caught off guard--started running through dates in my mind--atomic bomb anniversaries and the like--and had to ask him what he meant.

The debate he said. Donald Trump. "That's going to be my Super Bowl."

I know, of course, that the first presidential debate was coming up this week, and knew I would be watching. It's my job, for one thing, and Trump has made it must-see D.C. TV.

But it is August of 2015 before even the first primary, and the guy at the gas station is counting down the days to the first debate among a bloated field. You gotta love it.

It would be one thing if Donald Trump were simply political theater or a train wreck at which people were rubbernecking. he is definitely the first, and maybe the second.

But he is the leading GOP presidential contender and, as someone else said to me recently, he has tapped into something.

According to a Sunday poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, Trump is leading with 19% of the vote to Wisconsin Governor Rick Scott's 15% and 14% for Jeb Bush.

Trump is still expected to eventually tap out of whatever he has tapped into, but in the meantime, he is taking the primary process for a Mr. Toad-like wild ride.

Fox and Facebook are co-sponsoring Thursday's debate, which will feature the top 10 polling candidates, but be preceded by a candidate forum for seven other candidates in the field who did not pull the requisite numbers, with some highlights of that footage getting a little airtime in the prime time main event.

C-SPAN has the first such "forum," airing Monday night (Aug. 3), with all but three of the 17 declared candidates participating, one of the three no-shows being Trump.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.