Your Ad Here

Republicans Pull Plug on CNN March 1 Debate


The Republican presidential candidates are finally drawing a line on debates.

Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum decided to skip the March 1 debate that was to be co-hosted by CNN and the Georgia and Ohio state Republican parties, their campaigns confirmed Thursday.

CNN decided to cancel the debate after being left with a single confirmation, Newt Gingrich, who would have been left to square off solo with moderator John King. Gingrich’s camp is unlikely to be happy with the turn of events as the former House speaker has used the nationally televised spectacles to savage the media and twice revive his lagging campaign.

Oregon Public Broadcasting spokeswoman Carol Howard confirmed to POLITICO that the network and its partners still intend to go ahead with a GOP debate scheduled for March 19 in Portland, Ore. OPB will co-host that debate with PBS, NPR and The Washington Times.

The CNN faceoff was the last debate on the campaign calendar before nearly a dozen states head to the polls for Super Tuesday on March 6, a date with fresh urgency for Romney as he tries to regain momentum in what has been an extremely volatile primary.

“Gov. Romney will be spending a lot of time campaigning in Georgia and Ohio ahead of Super Tuesday,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. “With eight other states voting on March 6, we will be campaigning in other parts of the country and unable to schedule the CNN Georgia debate. We have participated in 20 debates, including 8 from CNN.”

A source familiar with what happened said that a Paul campaign official approached Romney’s team last week about not participating in the CNN forum. A Romney spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment about any talks, as well as questions about whether the campaign had discussions with Santorum’s team about skipping the event.

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

Santorum communications director Hogan Gidley said: “He’s not planning on being there.” Paul spokesman Gary Howard said Paul will be in another state to focus on retail campaigning.

That left CNN with Gingrich as 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 February 22 and will be moderated by CNN’s John King.”

The move deprives Gingrich of one of his most tested methods for making himself relevant — thundering against moderators to the joy of the GOP debate audience — and the move makes it harder for him to reassert himself in a race that’s increasingly seen as a two-man dogfight between Romney and Santorum.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.