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O’Reilly Says Trump Debate Would Draw Big

By David A. Patten   |   Monday, 12 Dec 2011 04:42 PM

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly told the Tonight Show’s Jay Leno that no Republican presidential candidate should have declined an invitation to the upcoming Newsmax ION Television 2012 Presidential Debate.

“I don’t understand,” O’Reilly said, then went on to explain why GOP candidates should be eager to participate in the debate, which is being moderated by business mogul Donald Trump.

“I thought it would have been good,” O’Reilly told Leno. “If I were a presidential contender, I would want it, because people who don’t ordinarily lock in would watch, you know, and they would think that Trump was going to yell at them and stuff like that. But you can get your message across to an audience that’s not political.

“So I would have done it,” he said, “but I don’t think that [the debate] is going to come off.”

The top cable news host conceded to Leno on Friday evening that he might be wrong in predicting the debate would be canceled.

Subsequently, Newsmax announced that the Dec. 27 debate in Des Moines, Iowa, will go on as scheduled. It will be broadcast to 100 million U.S. homes via the Ion Television network.

Note: Sign Up to RSVP to Join Donald Trump for The Newsmax ION Television 2012 Presidential Debate — Click Here Now!

Recent polls show that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is attending the debate, has emerged as the strong favorite in three of the first four major GOP primary contests: Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida.

An NBC-Marist poll released Sunday, for example, shows Gingrich opening up a double-digit lead over Romney in Florida, and nearly a 20-point margin in South Carolina. Gingrich also appears to be making serious inroads into Romney’s current front-runner status in New Hampshire.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a favorite of social conservatives, also has agreed to participate in the debate.

Other highlights from O’Reilly’s Tonight Show appearance:

• O’Reilly said the GOP contest is now effectively a two-person contest between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Gingrich. “If somebody really was dramatic,” O’Reilly said, it is possible they could still elevate their standing. But recent polls, he said, suggest the nominee will be either Romney or Gingrich.

• The Fox News host does not believe that Texas Gov. Rick Perry will benefit from a new ad in Iowa in which he promises to “end Obama’s war on religion” and criticizes gay marriage. O’Reilly said the ad is designed to help Perry with Iowa’s evangelicals, but won’t bolster his overall standing.

• Businessman Herman Cain “never was” a serious candidate for the GOP nomination, O’Reilly said. “What happened was somebody came up to him in the summer and said, ‘Hey Herman, you want to run for president?’ And he goes, “OK.” He didn’t set up any organizations in Iowa and New Hampshire. They had nobody. And what did he have to lose? I swear to God, Herman Cain, Dancing With the Stars next year. He’s going to be on,” Reilly predicted.

• O’Reilly told Leno that public sentiment has turned against the Occupy movement, which has set up tents in cities around the country. Initially, says O’Reilly, the Occupy movement “was spirited and people sympathized.”

But in recent weeks that appears to have changed. “Now these guys are causing trouble and there are a lot of problems in the camps themselves and I think Americans say, ‘All right, look, we got the message, nobody likes Wall Street greed-heads, but this is a little too much right now,” he said.

• O’Reilly also talked about his new book, Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever. He said the book reveals that Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of the president, who was serving as an officer in the Union army, was going out with the fiancé of assassin John Wilkes Booth. “We think Booth found out about that, and that drove his hatred for Lincoln even more, and led him to shoot him in the head,” O’Reilly said.

Note: Sign Up to RSVP to Join Donald Trump for The Newsmax ION Television 2012 Presidential Debate — Click Here Now!

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