Report: Romney to skip CNN debate on March 1 in Georgia? Update: Confirmed; Update: Santorum out too? Update: CNN cancels debate

posted at 2:35 pm on February 16, 2012 by Allahpundit

Nothing on the wires yet but Red State chief/CNN contributor Erick Erickson says the scoop comes straight from the top of the Georgia Republican Party.

GA GOP Chairwoman Sue Everhart tells me Mitt Romney will not participate in the GA GOP debate prior to Super Tuesday.

The Georgia GOP is co-sponsoring the debate with CNN so Everhart’s in a position to know. Also, remember this Byron York piece from last month? Romney’s team has been grumbling about the debates for awhile now:

“There are too many of these,” Romney strategist Stuart Stevens said after Monday night’s Fox News debate at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. “We have to bring some order to it. We haven’t accepted Florida…It’s kind of like a cruise that’s gone on too long.”…

As part of his complaint against the current debate schedule, Stevens expressed lingering irritation at the January 7 ABC News debate in New Hampshire, in which Romney faced a long a tendentious series of questions about contraception. (“It was such a lousy debate,” Stevens said.) More generally, Stevens suggested that in the long course of the campaign, this year’s key issues have been exhausted. “We’re down to the most obscure questions,” he said. “When more than ten debates mention Chilean models, and it’s not a fashion show, then something’s wrong.”

That was published on January 17, the day after Gingrich revived his candidacy by sparring with Juan Williams at the Fox News debate in South Carolina. Team Romney was grumpy about having to play to Newt’s strengths by participating in so many of these pageants — but they kept on participating anyway, and Romney recovered well enough to stomp Gingrich at both Florida debates and win the state. That being so, it’s baffling that he’d pull out of Georgia. Yeah, granted, he’s an almost certain loser in a southern stronghold that’s likely to split between native son Newt and social con Santorum, but this isn’t just any debate. It’s the last one before Super Tuesday so there’s almost no chance of it being canceled; even without Romney there, Gingrich, Santorum, and Paul will be eager to use the platform to make their closing arguments before the big vote five days later. With Mitt absent, they can take as many free shots at him as they want. He risks coming off as the arrogant establishment presumptive nominee who needn’t deign to show up at all the events the others bother with. Given the problems he expects to have turning out the base in November, why would he snub the south?

What am I missing here? Is Romney calculating that, if left alone onstage, Santorum and Gingrich will have no choice but to tear each other apart? Mitt actually needs a Newt comeback right now in order to pull Santorum back down to earth and keep the conservative vote split, and with Romney less of a threat in the south than Santorum is, Gingrich really has no choice but to focus his attacks on his “junior partner.” I guess Romney figures that giving Newt extra time in the spotlight to tear into Sweater Vest is the best thing he can do for his own candidacy right now, even if it means taking a beating there between them in absentia. That’s cynical. But that’s Mitt for you.

Erick hasn’t posted on this yet but there’s bound to be something at Red State shortly. I’ll update when there is.

Update: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is hearing this too, and notes: “Contracts among the players in a debate – the hosts and the broadcasting unit – typically include an escape clause that would permit CNN to dump the enterprise if one or more of the prime candidate refuses to show.” Won’t the rest of the field be anxious to go on with the show, though? Romney could have bigfooted a network into cancelling a debate by pulling out a few weeks ago, maybe, but now CNN’s got the new frontrunner plus Gingrich on his home turf ready to go.

Update: Erick was right. Team Mitt says he’s passing.

Update: I’m dumbfounded. From CBS reporter Lindsey Boerma:

Romney isn’t alone on skipping March 1 debate it GA, it seems. Santorum “has no plans of doing it right now,” spox tells me.

Why on earth wouldn’t Santorum want a free microphone to dump on Romney before Super Tuesday? Sure, Newt’s going to win Georgia anyway. So what? Mystifying.

Update: According to Ethan Klapper of National Journal, the debate is kaput. Amazing. I guess Santorum calculated that, with Romney gone, he’d be better off cutting Newt’s oxygen by skipping the debate too in hopes that CNN would cancel. Mission accomplished.

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Good for Romney and Santorum.

The GOP needs to stop playing this game by the MSM’s rules. These MSM-sponsored debates are just set-ups for gotcha questions to try and trip up or embarrass the GOP candidates so that the MSM’s golden boy will have an easier time getting re-elected by the country that he’s busy bankrupting.

GOP and Libertarian candidates: Keep saying NO to the MSM/Media Matters/Barack Obama, Inc,. hit squads.

AZCoyote on February 17, 2012 at 7:40 AM

Great news! Encouraging to see GOP candidates standing up to those in the MSM that have anything but their best interests in mind. They need to extend this to interviews with the Washington Post, which seems to be turning into a farm team for the Obama Administration …

ombdz on February 17, 2012 at 8:35 AM

Cause he might get asked a question about his record. And, he’d be one on one with Newt who is in a take no prisoner mode.

BacaDog on February 16, 2012 at 3:05 PM

Newt has the luxury of being so far behind in the polling that he can afford to be the nasty vindictive SOB that has emerged in the aftermath of his own self-implosion.

Happy Nomad on February 17, 2012 at 9:43 AM

Newt has the lowest likability now. The angry little man, which is who Newt really is, does not play well. In the next debate, if he makes it that far, look for the kinder and more subdued Professor Newt who lectures everyone on how he is the smartest person ever.

Really, Newt needs to exit the race and help defeat Romney. That is what he said to Rick, wasn’t it?

fight like a girl on February 17, 2012 at 10:59 AM

Scroo CNN.

madmonkphotog on February 17, 2012 at 3:32 PM

Newt has the lowest likability now. The angry little man, which is who Newt really is, does not play well.
fight like a girl on February 17, 2012 at 10:59 AM

But he doesn’t run away from a debate like Fleebagger RonMe did!

DannoJyd on February 17, 2012 at 3:46 PM

Don’t give a crap about likability!?! Think about it, the RepublicRAT establishment is forcing a virtual LIAR down our throats!?! Nice goin’, STUPID Party!?! You are trying to influence us into electing a replacement LIAR-In-Chief, only with an (R)!?! I wish Willard (from the RAT movie of the same name) would skip the rest of this election cycle, to tell you the truth!?!

Colatteral Damage on February 17, 2012 at 5:44 PM