The Republican Party's primary race has spun into surreality just days before the crucial first contest of the season, the Iowa caucuses.
The race was already in bizarre territory as it was, with rank outsider Donald Trump in the lead challenged only by Ted Cruz, a freshman senator who is widely loathed by his colleagues in DC, and establishment favourites like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, battling to even stay relevant.
Donald Trump's ongoing feud with Fox
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Donald Trump's ongoing feud with Fox
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump claims that he has 'not been treated fairly' by Fox News, during a campaign rally in South Carolina.
It got even weirder on Wednesday when Mr Trump pulled out of the debate that Fox News was to host in Des Moines on Thursday night.
Adding to the chaos, Mr Trump is now openly feuding with Fox, the network most closely associated with his party.
Rather than attend the debate Mr Trump is to host his own event in Des Moines instead, which he is casting as a fundraiser for veterans.
Several veterans groups have already distanced themselves from the event. "If offered, @IAVA will decline donations from Trump's event. We need strong policies from candidates, not to be used for political stunts," the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paul Rieckhoff, tweeted.
But that has not stopped two other candidates – Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum – from ditching the party-sanctioned second-tier debate and joining Mr Trump at his event.
Democrats are thrilled by the chaos in Republican ranks. Vice-President Joe Biden told a Democratic Party meeting on Thursday, "We may be given a gift from the Lord in the presidential race here.
"I don't know who to root for more – Cruz or ... what's that guy's name? He's having a fundraiser for veterans tonight, I'm told."
The Fox-Trump dispute goes back to an earlier debate in which the Fox moderator Megyn Kelly dared challenge Mr Trump about some of the many sexist comments he has made over the years. Mr Trump was furious and said in an in interview later that Kelly had "blood coming out of her ... wherever" when she asked the question.
Nonetheless he attended later debates. This week though Mr Trump, now the unlikely poll leader, returned to the issue, saying in interviews that Kelly was biased against him and should not be allowed to co-host. He threatened a boycott.
Fox fired back with a somewhat snide public statement – reportedly written by the Fox boss Roger Ailes – saying, "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."
Mr Trump then quit the event and started arranging his own, which CNN will now screen at the same time as the Fox debate.
Senator Cruz has spent the hours since the blow-up, merrily tootling about Iowa casting Mr Trump as too delicate to cope with an interrogation from Kelly. "Gentle Donald," he kept calling him during a rally in Des Moines on Wednesday night.
There are a few interpretations about Mr Trump's motives in giving up such an important public platform days before Monday's caucuses.
Some believe he is thin-skinned. Others believe he is smart.
It is a rule of thumb in politics that no candidate with a commanding lead ever wants to debate – they have everything to lose, nothing to gain. Many believe Mr Trump manufactured the dispute as an excuse not to attend.
But the dispute reveals as much about the current state of the Republican Party as it does about Mr Trump.
The debacle is simply more evidence that the party has lost control of its own primaries. The party's establishment believes Mr Trump might lead them to oblivion, just as it is sure it cannot work with Senator Cruz. Public finger-pointing about who is to blame has already begun.
And it also reveals something about the place of Fox News.
Since at least the turn of the century no serious Republican candidate has dared cross Fox. Meanwhile, the network, created by Mr Ailes on behalf of Rupert Murdoch, has carefully nurtured the fiction that it is an outsider to what it calls "the mainstream media" despite constantly dominating cable news ratings.
On Wednesday night, Mr Trump not only turned his back on Fox, he punctured that conceit, casting the network as representative of the media elite. And his legion of followers so far seems to agree, and many believe that even in his absence he will dominate Thursday night's proceedings.