Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum have found a way to wring one more headline mentioning their names out of the Republican presidential primary. That is, before the inevitable ones announcing the end of their struggling campaigns.
Both have said that they will appear at frontrunner Donald Trump’s last-minute event at Drake University in Des Moines, which is being held in direct competition with the Republican National Committee-sanctioned debate on Fox News.
Huckabee and Santorum, who didn’t qualify for the main event tonight, will apparently participate in the so-called “undercard” debate earlier in the evening, and then head across town to the Trump event.
The unprecedented decision by Trump to boycott the debate tonight came just days before the Iowa caucuses this coming Monday, and were sparked by the billionaire’s ongoing feud with Fox News in general and debate moderator Megyn Kelly in particular. After Fox responded to repeated provocations from Trump with a press release mocking the former reality television star for being afraid to face Kelly, Trump said that he had decided to hold a separate event, ostensibly to raise money for wounded veterans.
The event will start an hour before the GOP debate with a sort of warm-up, and the “main event” is supposed to kick off at 9 ET, the same time as the Republican debate. Trump has been gleefully predicting a ratings disaster for Fox, and has continued disparaging Kelly on various social media platforms.
The addition of Huckabee and Santorum is interesting, because they are the last two candidates to win the Republican caucuses in Iowa (Huckabee in 2008 and Santorum in 2012).
However, their addition to the line-up probably won’t do a whole lot for the Trump’s ratings. Huckabee right now is polling at between 2 and 3 percent in Iowa, and Santorum is polling at less than one percent.
And on the topic of of ratings, it’s unclear exactly who will be able to watch the Trump event. On Thursday morning, the Internet was spilling over with rumors. One website reported that Oprah Winfrey had paid $8 million to secure the exclusive broadcast rights to the event. Of course, the same website also reported that the residents of Flint, Michigan, which is suffering from contaminated water, have begun growing gills. However, that didn’t stop people from believing it.
Oh my god this is going to be so good she's a genius https://t.co/uLLSwX1cgI— 土屋咲恵 (@plantblogger) January 28, 2016
More widespread was a rumor that CNN had announced it would carry the event live. Numerous right-wing websites on Thursday were reporting that the news network had agreed to host the Trump rally, but most appeared to trace the claim to the same tweet, from conservative pundit Ann Coulter on Wednesday. CNN had, as of early Thursday afternoon, not made any statement regarding its coverage of the event.