Republican presidential candidates will gather tonight in Milwaukee for the party’s first presidential primary debate. Noticeably absent will be former President Donald Trump, whose sit-down with ex-Fox News host Tucker Carlson will be released at the same time. One faculty expert at the George Washington University says the main headline coming into tonight’s events isn’t about the debate and interview themselves.
Peter Loge is the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs. Loge has nearly 30 years of experience in politics and communications, including a presidential appointment at the Food and Drug Administration and senior positions for Sen. Edward Kennedy and three members of the U.S. House of Representatives. He currently leads the Project on Ethics in Political Communication at the School of Media and Public Affairs and continues to advise advocates and organizations.
“The story about the debate and Carlson interview matter more than the debate and interview themselves,” Loge says. “The explanation of what happened and what it means will shape the immediate next phase of the campaign. How the events are covered and explained matters more than the events themselves.”
As for the debate, Loge adds that it isn’t at all surprising that Trump is passing on the first debate.
“Trump's essentially counter-programming, and his followers will follow him to Carlson. Front-runners typically avoid debates because all they can do is lose ground. The debate will be everyone else vying to be the not-Trump, which means DeSantis is the target. The debate will also likely fall into ‘Trump and Trumpism is bad for America’ versus ‘I'm like Trump but without the indictments, porn stars, and secret documents in my bathroom.’ Hopefully the story coming out of the debate is that the former gained ground and America is ready to move on from the politics of chaos and destruction and back to a politics that focuses on solving real problems faced by real people.”
Loge can also discuss candidate discourse around democracy and what he hopes to see from the candidates.
If you would like to speak with Prof. Loge, please contact GW Media Relations Senior Specialist Cate Douglass at [email protected].