Good news, America! It looks as if a revival of the interminable series of candidate debates that dogged the countryside like a Biblical plague in the early part of the campaign season is not going to happen. Everyone can get on with their lives, and, if necessary, just replay highlights of the previous four hundred debates, content in the knowledge that the moderators basically ran out of new questions to ask everybody back in October. Today, a March 1 debate that was to be hosted by the Georgia Republican Party and aired on CNN, has been called off, as candidates signaled they would not be participating:
Leading the way is Mitt Romney. As Elise Foley noted on HuffPost's 2012 blog:
The Mitt Romney campaign confirmed on Thursday that the candidate will skip a March 1 debate due to scheduling issues ahead of "Super Tuesday" on March 6, Sarah Boxer of CBS/National Journal first reported on Twitter.
Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney, said that he will be campaigning in other states at the time of the CNN debate.
Romney wasn't alone in ditching the Georgia debate. ABC News Political Director Amy Walter reported, via Twitter, that Ron Paul was out as well. Paul spokesman Jesse Benton told Walter that the Texas Congressman was going to be busy on the trail, "focus[ing] on a bunch of western caucuses." ABC's Michael Falcone added: "Santorum campaign hasn't 'made a firm' decision on Georgia debate, but source says they are likely to skip too."
That would have left CNN with nothing to do but spend a couple of hours broadcasting Newt Gingrich debating himself. Admittedly, this would have been an inspired idea:
But Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond is basically flipping his lid right now, tweeting, "[Mitt Romney] spits in Georgia's face and cancels Atlanta debate appearance." His anger is understandable. Gingrich has been in need of a debate matchup in a friendly, home-base state for several weeks now. The last time his campaign surged, it was because Gingrich knew instinctively how to excite South Carolina voters. Not getting to take on the field (and the media) in his home state puts a damper on his comeback hopes (which have already experienced a setback in the form of Texas pushing back its April primary to late May).
But it's not going to happen now. In a statement, CNN says, "Without full participation of all four candidates, CNN will not move forward with the Super Tuesday debate." In addition, MSNBC has canceled the pre-Super Tuesday debate that it was scheduled to host at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. That means the only debates on the horizon are CNN's February 22nd face-off in Mesa, Arizona, and a March debate in Oregon hosted by PBS.
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