Bud Kennedy

Was presidential debate Trump’s last episode, or a warmup act?

Son-in-law Jared Kushner has inquired with an investment banker about starting a Trump media company.
Son-in-law Jared Kushner has inquired with an investment banker about starting a Trump media company. AP

You only thought it was over.

Donald J. Trump is not going home Nov. 8 to take up knitting. For weeks, his campaign strategy has seemed more like a marketing agenda, maybe for a new media company or satellite network.

Forty percent is an awful finish in politics. But it’s a great rating for a TV channel.

If top-rated Fox News’ following declines in the absence of Trump friend Roger Ailes, where will viewers go?

“I think the way he’s conducted his campaign, where he’s campaigned and the questions he’s raised — he can’t think this is about winning the election,” said Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s press secretary, Brian Fallon.

And that was before the debate.

“My theory is, he’s trying to rile his core supporters and create a base of support for after the election,” Fallon said.

Trump has said he is not planning a venture. But the Financial Times reported this week that son-in-law Jared Kushner had met with a prominent investment banker about opportunities.

Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon, an executive on loan from the populist conservative blog Breitbart.com, also has said the campaign is not a business startup. But the campaign message seems to say otherwise, particularly in appealing to hard-line “alt-right” conservatives who want more restrictions on global trade and legal immigration.

TV entertainer Glenn Beck, a Westlake resident and owner of the Irving-based TheBlaze.com online network, said last month that Trump “will be fantastic” on his own network: “You can just keep juicing those people up and saying crazier and crazier things and they’ll keep paying you money.”

Industry observer Ken Doctor of California-based Newsonomics.com said new networks struggle for cable and satellite support, but “given his brand, it may be that Trump can essentially bully cable companies to carry him.”

But Fox News’ average viewer is 68, Doctor said: “After this election, do Trump voters have the appetite to watch more cable TV?”

TCU associate professor Aaron Chimbel, who teaches journalism at the Bob Schieffer College of Communications, wrote by email that a network with Sean Hannity and Mike Huckabee is “certainly plausible.”

Recent discussion centers on whether the Trump brand was damaged by allegations of groping women and ogling nude pageant contestants, and what he called “locker room” comments about grabbing women’s genitals.

“Trump may need a new venture to help with potential revenue damage,” Chimbel wrote.

In other words, if his hotel or casino business suffers, he might try to make it up with a niche media company.

It didn’t work for Sarah Palin, or Al Gore. And it isn’t working well for Beck.

“It takes a lot of money,” Chimbel wrote, “and the chance of success is unlikely.”

Sort of like a presidential campaign.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.