Trump Debate Good Test to Beat Obama, Gingrich Says

Friday, 09 Dec 2011 12:32 PM

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Newt Gingrich blasted his Republican cohorts Friday for refusing to attend The Newsmax ION Television 2012 Presidential Debate, saying they can’t expect to defeat Barack Obama if they’re worried about moderator Donald Trump.

"I think if you're afraid to debate with Donald Trump, people are going to say, 'so you want me to believe you can debate Barack Obama but you're afraid to show up with Donald Trump?'" the ex-House Speaker said on Friday expanding comments he made to Fox News' Greta Van Susteren earlier in the week.

Gingrich, who has enthusiastically embraced the debate and was the first candidate to sign on to the Dec. 27 event in Des Moines, Iowa, has been critical throughout the week of the other GOP hopefuls in the race, particularly Mitt Romney.

"It strikes me that it's kind of a very weak position. I don't know why people would do that."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney declined earlier in the week without giving specific reasons. Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann have declined as well.

And on Friday radio host Don Imus expressed surprise at candidates who declined an invitation to the Trump Debate Sponsored by Newsmax and ION Television.

“It would be the most watched debate of any of them,” he said.

Newsmax and Trump have said they will forge ahead with the debate.

Rick Santorum has said he will join Gingrich in the debate. On Thursday he issued a statement calling the other candidates in the race hypocrites for lining up for “photo ops” with Trump for political reasons but hiding when he is the moderator of a debate. In his statement, he said:

“Many of my opponents jockeyed to be the first to fly up to New York and use Donald Trump for a photo op and no doubt try and secure an endorsement. But when Donald wants to moderate a debate – they refuse to attend. That’s what’s so wrong with politics today – hypocrisy. At this critical time in our nation’s history, just weeks before Iowans cast this important vote – many of the other candidates want to hide behind TV ads and mail pieces. We plan to be there front and center in person to debate Newt directly, and if it’s just the two of us, we’re fine with it.

“Donald Trump knows business and knows global markets – and we all know he’ll be able to bring in a broad audience. And let’s be honest, at least Donald Trump will have more in common with the candidates than with the vast majority of past moderators.”

Note: Sign Up to RSVP to Join Donald Trump for the Newsmax ION Television Presidential Debate — Click Here Now!

On Friday, Trump said on Fox Business Network that Gingrich had “courage” and that he was "very disappointed" in Bachmann’s decision not to participate in the debate. Bachmann has been aggressively pursuing Trump’s endorsement.

"[Gingrich] had the courage to immediately say yes. You know who I am very disappointed in? Michele Bachmann," he said. "She came up to see me four times. She would call me and ask me for advice. She said if she wins, she would like to think about me for the vice-presidency."

"Most importantly, I did a two hour phone call for her with her people," he continued. "And people said 'are you endorsing her?' The answer was no. And after all that she announced she was not going to do the debate. It's called loyalty. How do you do that? It's amazing to me."

Regardless of those who’ve passed on the debate, a number of major conservative groups and leaders have endorsed the debate vocally throughout the week, including:

• Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform
• Former Alaska Gov. and 2008 vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin
• Ralph Reed, Faith and Freedom Coalition
• Tea Party Express
• Political analyst and columnist Dick Morris
• Jeffrey Lord, former Reagan aide
• Al Cardenas, American Conservative Union
• Iowa Rep. Steve King
• The Institute for Liberty

Fox News Host Sean Hannity, when he heard about the coming debate, categorically stated: “I’ll be there.”

Tea Party Express joined as a sponsor Thursday and urged Republican candidates to participate.

“We are proud to join with Newsmax and other conservative organizations as a sponsor of this debate,” Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer said. Kremer described Newsmax as “an indispensable part of the conservative media that keeps voters informed of the critical issues facing America.”

Gingrich has endorsed the debate, adding that there was little reason for other candidates not to join him.

“We have to be open to new ways of doing things and new ways of approaching things,” Gingrich said Monday during a New York City visit to meet with Trump.

Gingrich then praised Trump and Newsmax, adding, “I thought it was great when [Donald Trump] agreed to do it. I think it’s great that Newsmax is helping launch it. It’s part of the process by which America governs itself."

Likewise, Palin urged Republican presidential candidates on Wednesday to take part in the debate, saying: "I think candidates should not be afraid in front of the nation no matter who the host of the debate is,” Palin said. “What is a bit appealing about this idea of Trump hosting a debate is, consider the diverse audience that perhaps he can attract. It's important that independents and those who are not obsessed with inside-baseball partisan politics, which is most of us, we'd like to hear more of the message of each one of these candidates and perhaps Donald Trump will be able to attract a diverse demographic that maybe has not been as interested in this horse race thus far."

And Reed's pro-family Faith and Freedom Coalition, one of the nation’s most influential evangelical organizations, strongly endorsed the Trump-moderated debate. The group posted Reed's statement on its website:

“Newsmax is an outstanding news organization and I’m confident its GOP presidential candidate debate in Iowa broadcast on ION will be fair, balanced, professionally conducted and informative. I encourage members of Faith and Freedom Coalition in Iowa to attend. When it comes to opportunities for voters to hear directly from the candidates, I believe more is better. I’ll be watching on December 27.”

Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, wrote a column questioning why mostly liberal-leaning news outlets have "framed" the conversation between Republican candidates and Republican voters in previous debates, and threw his support behind Trump and Newsmax' efforts.

And Morris, a conservative author and Fox News analyst, went so far as to call Romney "foolish" for skipping the debate and urged all major candidates to join in.

Note: Sign Up to RSVP to Join Donald Trump for the Newsmax ION Television Presidential Debate — Click Here Now!

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