2016 Elections

Trump Changes the Game of Debates

The payoff for not debating is likely higher than for showing up.

He's got better places to be.

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

So it turns out that the presidential debates are a noncooperative game. There are advantages to a strategy of cooperating with others, but if you see a way to improve your position by defecting, nobody can force you back in. Maybe Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Republicans’ final televised debate before next week’s Iowa caucuses will even improve his standing in the polls. After all, it’s not like the news media will be talking about some other Republican candidate over the next few days. And if, as the months go by, other candidates follow Trump’s lead, we’ll likely see the end of the cattle-call-style debates that so depressingly saturate the electoral landscape.

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