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How Tuesday night encapsulated the 2016 campaign

Donald Trump spoke at a rally Tuesday in Iowa. The Republican front-runner has said he will not participate in Thursday’s Fox News debate.
Donald Trump spoke at a rally Tuesday in Iowa. The Republican front-runner has said he will not participate in Thursday’s Fox News debate. Scott Olson/Getty Images

For those who follow the presidential campaign’s every turn, Tuesday night could have caused some whiplash.

But in a short few hours, it also perfectly encapsulated the state of the race in both parties.

There was the big news that Republican front-runner Donald Trump will not participate in Thursday night’s Fox News debate in Iowa.

The takeaway: Trump doesn’t need the media elite, but it has been the national media running the show this year.

Speaking of the media, there was also the news in New Hampshire that the Union Leader newspaper — no longer a partner on ABC News Republican debate — will partner with MSNBC to host an unsanctioned Democratic debate between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. After months of Hillary Clinton backing the DNC’s limited sanctioned debate schedule, she is in, and so is Martin O’Malley.

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But Bernie Sanders, who was calling for more debates just a week ago, is holding off to make sure there will be more debates down the road. Sanders can draw a crowd — 20,000 in Minnesota on Tuesday — but polls show him trailing Clinton in contests beyond the New Hampshire primary.

The takeaway: Clinton is slipping and needs more debates, while Sanders is surging and needs debates down the road to compete in the later primary states where he is behind.

Ted Cruz, meanwhile, said he wants a one-on-one debate with Trump. Conveniently for Cruz, this would highlight the fact the GOP pair is pulling away from the field in polls.

The takeaway: Cruz continues to work on his Iowa ground game while Trump continues to fight with the media.


James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell. Click here to subscribe to his daily e-mail update on the 2016 campaign.

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