Republican Party front-runner Donald Trump smelled a rat and smartly chose to pull out of Thursday’s Fox News debate. Shrill cries of “chicken” and “coward” immediately went up by those who will now be deprived of their last chance to draw blood before the voters have their say in Iowa. Make no mistake that a nasty surprise was being cooked up for the Donald by his fellow candidates as well as Fox News’s femme fatale Megyn Kelly. The network had obviously turned on Trump as the establishment – of which Fox is a key part of – marshaled all resources into a final blitzkrieg beginning with the National Review’s collectible edition of anti-Trump manifestos published last week. Now they can all caterwaul and rail at Trump in absentia to millions of fewer viewers.

CNN reports that “Donald Trump will skip Fox News debate on Thursday” (note that the story has been somewhat altered overnight from when I excerpted this in order to insert the proper spin).

Donald Trump will “definitely” skip Thursday’s GOP debate due to a deepening fight with the Fox News Channel, according to his campaign manager Corey Lewandowsky.

“It’s not under negotiation,” Lewandowski told reporters Tuesday evening.

Instead of attending the debate, “We’ll have an event here in Iowa, with potentially another network, to raise money for wounded warriors,” he said. “And Fox will go from probably having 24 million viewers to about 2 million.”

Lewandowski ruled out Trump’s participation just a few minutes after Trump himself said he would “most likely” hold a competing event in Iowa during the debate.

Let’s see how much money Fox is going to make on the debate without me, okay?” Trump said, asserting that the ratings will sink if he’s not there.

Trump said he was outraged by a “wiseguy” Fox press release that mocked him earlier in the day.

Now Fox News and Trump are at loggerheads. Political observers immediately wondered whether Trump was bluffing. Media analysts asked whether Fox would leave an empty podium at center stage during Thursday’s event, which is the last GOP debate before the all-important Iowa caucuses.

Fox had no immediate response to Trump.

The blog The Conservative Treehouse which has been tracking the establishment war on Trump divulges this interesting tidbit on the planned ambush:

Megyn Kelly, and her sidekick Chris Stirewalt are the visible symptom, not the actual underlying issue. Their partnered ‘too-cute-by-half schtick‘ has been ongoing for several months, including the coordinated antics at the last debate, and in the weeks leading up to the last debate; but again, they are the symptom – not the real issue.

However, it’s also more than a little hypocritical for the same republican voices who were shouting at republican nominees in 2011/2012, for walking into traps with CNN’s Candy Crowley and ABC’s George Stephanopolous, to now be clutching their pearls when 2016 republican frontrunner Donald Trump recognizes the construct in Fox News and avoids it.

Chris Stirewalt is the advance guy, the Fox political debate contractor/producer who is in Iowa setting up the parameters. He’s the scout organizing the Muslim activist to confront Donald Trump. He’s the guy organizing the Mexican immigrant to question/antagonize the intended target, trump. Stirewalt puts the agenda script together – Ms. Kelly, Mr. Wallace and Mr. Baier execute the production.

The problem is Stirewalt and Kelly are so full of themselves, they’ve become too transparent. They were also transparent before the August 5th 2015 debate, but there wasn’t enough history to provide any context for Trump to avoid it. He just dealt with it.

The “paint-Trump-a–sexist” scheme didn’t work, it actually backfired, and Fox found themselves facing a hostile reaction from their own viewership.

Of course the narrative that Trump is “afraid” of Kelly was already being promulgated throughout the corrupt media on Wednesday night as per standard smear tactics dictate and will be hammered for days. But it could again backfire just as every attack against the wealthy iconoclast has to this point. Trump will instead host an alternate event and allow the seven other clowns on the main stage more time jack each other off and spew boring talking points, their final barrage never even made it out of the armory.