Tags: Ron Paul | Mitt Romney | 2012 President Race | | Newt Gingrich | Rick Santorum | Georgia

Romney, Paul, Santorum to Skip March 1 Debate

By Dan Weil   |   Thursday, 16 Feb 2012 04:25 PM

A presidential debate scheduled for March 1 in Georgia has been canceled by CNN, The Hill reports.

Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum all decided to skip that debate, which is the last scheduled before "Super Tuesday" March 6, The Hill reports.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney bowed out first, citing schedule conflicts. “With [nine] other states voting on March 6, we will be campaigning in other parts of the country and unable to schedule the CNN Georgia debate," said Andrea Saul, Romney's campaign press secretary.

"Gov. Romney will be spending a lot of time campaigning in Georgia and Ohio ahead of Super Tuesday." Romney already has participated in 20 previous debates, she pointed out.

Meanwhile, Georgia GOP chairman Sue Everhart told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Texas Rep. Paul will take a pass on the debate, The Hill reports. And Hogan Gidley, spokesman for former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum, told the National Journal that his boss "has no plans of doing it right now."

Presumably, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich would have been happy to participate. The debates have offered him his best chance to shine.

All four presidential candidates are still scheduled to take part in CNN’s Arizona debate next Wednesday.

A source familiar with what happened told Politico that a Paul campaign official approached Romney’s team last week about not participating in the CNN forum.

Still, it seemed that Romney wasn’t the only candidate to beg off as a result of a busy campaign schedule. Santorum’s spokesman told Politico said the former Pennsylvania senator isn’t expected to attend the March 1 forum, and Paul’s camp gave a firm “no.”

“He’s not planning on being there.” Paul spokesman Gary Howard told Politico. He said Paul will be in another state to focus on retail campaigning.

Gingrich, who has excelled in the debates, gave CNN its only confirmed “yes,” and the network decided against moving ahead.

“Mitt Romney and Ron Paul told the Georgia Republican Party, Ohio Republican Party and CNN Thursday that they will not participate in the March 1 Republican presidential primary debate,” CNN said in a statement, which was reported on the cable network’s website shortly after Romney’s decision was announced.

“Without full participation of all four candidates, CNN will not move forward with the Super Tuesday debate. However, next week, CNN and the Arizona Republican Party will host all four leading contenders for the GOP nomination. That debate will be held in Mesa, Ariz. on Feb. 22 and will be moderated by CNN’s John King."

Gingrich is now left without his most tested method for success so far. Without a debate platform, the former House speaker will find it harder to reassert himself in a race that’s increasingly seen as a two-man dogfight between Romney and Santorum.

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