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The biggest loser in Trump debate fight is…

When ego gets in the way, it usually leads to bad decisions.

Donald Trump's decision to skip Thursday night's presidential debate is not only a bad decision from a media and branding perspective, but it is likely also driven by ego.

By pulling himself out of the debate, Trump is giving the other candidates free rein to attack him – and unlike previous debates when Trump fought back – viewers will only hear one side of the story. In crisis communications, you always want to correct the record where it is wrong otherwise people will believe it.

The candidates always distort facts and platforms. You can't avoid that with presidential debates, but when you're on the stage, you at least have a minute or two to rebut it.

Trump has now lost his chance to rebut the candidates who might distort his record or views on the issues and get his message across to voters just as they go to the polls.


Donald Trump
Brian Snyder | Reuters
Donald Trump

Trump's decision also hurts his brand. Up until now, Trump has been viewed as the alpha male who dominates the debates. True or not, many voters believe he would be a stronger force against Vladimir Putin or ISIS based on his approach, delivery and statements.

But with Trump's decision to skip the debate, which came after Fox News didn't give in to his demand to remove moderator Megyn Kelly from the debate, he allows others to brand him as weak. He also gave the other candidates an assist with their attacks during an interview with CNN on Monday night.

"I don't like her [Kelly]. She doesn't treat me fairly. I'm not a big fan of hers at all," Trump said in that CNN interview.

You don't need to be a media strategist to see the weakness that sound bite presents. The political path for attack is clear: if you can't handle the questions from a Fox News moderator, how are you going to handle our enemies?

It's a strategy Fox News has already exploited through a statement:

"We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president — a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings." (Trump posed the question of whether he should participate in the debate to his followers on Tuesday.)

Branding and PR are related. The message for the masses is spread through the media, so like it or not, opinions are shaped by what we read and see. And when that opinion is shaped, a brand is formed.



Trump knows this better than any other candidate based on his time on NBC's The Apprentice. Viewers of that reality TV show, including this writer, never knew Trump or what he stood for, but when he took us into his board room and he scolded contestants for being weak, our opinions were formed.

The Trump brand was also created – for the masses.

By skipping the debate, Trump is giving the other candidates a chance to brand him as a coward.

But Trump's decision doesn't only hurt him. It also hurts Ted Cruz who will be taking center stage as the front-runner.

Every candidate on Thursday night will turn their verbal ammunition toward Cruz. In cycling, the person in second place exerts less energy as the front runner takes the brunt of the wind and blocks the path for the person behind him. Cruz no longer has Trump to block the attacks. All eyes are now on him.

As for the other candidates, for the first time they will get an opportunity to brand Trump as weak without his quick witted responses that usually deflect the attacks.

And for them, it will be a good thing.




Commentary by Mark Macias, head of Macias PR, a global public-relations firm, that has run media and branding campaigns for politicians, tech start-ups, financial firms, nonprofits and companies. He's also author of the book, "Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing theMedia." Follow him on Twitter @markmacias.