Only a few days into the GOP candidate dust-up over the Donald Trump debate, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann have yet to weigh in on the controversy but a majority of the rest of the field is against it. Only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are up for the event that some are calling a “joke” and “circus-like.”
Fading front-runner Mitt Romney decided yesterday to join Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman in declining the opportunity, albeit not as colorfully.
Trump, for his part, is taking it all in stride. He said Romney is missing out on an opportunity. "Frankly I'm surprised, because he really wants my endorsement, he wants it badly," he told MSNBC.
Trump, who also hosts the NBC show “The Apprentice,” noted that he draws strong national ratings and suggested that by missing his debate, Romney may also be missing an opportunity to regain his top spot in the national polls.
"If you're down in the polls, which respectfully he is down in the poll very substantially in a lot of ways, I would think you'd want to be in a debate like this," Trump said.
Averages show that former House Speaker Gingrich leads Romney in national polls by as much as 31.3 percent to 20.3 percent.
Meanwhile, candidates Huntsman and Paul have gone well beyond simply declining Trump’s offer.
Huntsman said the whole thing is a “joke” on NBC’s Today show Tuesday. He also told Fox News that if Trump “had any courage at all, he would be running for the president of the United States of America as opposed to manipulating the process from the outside.”
Paul released a statement saying, that Trump’s participation would “distract from questions and answers concerning important issues” and create “an unwanted circus-like atmosphere.”
Political strategist Karl Rove also said Monday on the “Fox and Friends” morning show that the Republican National Committee should “discourage” candidates from participating.
Romney, possibly confirming Trump’s assertion that he is interested in an endorsement, politely announced during a Tuesday Fox News interview that he would not be participating in Trump’s debate later this month. He said his decision was made based on his busy schedule prior to early primaries, not on his opinion of Trump.
"The rest of the month is going to be spent campaigning,” Romney said. “We'll be hitting the trail."
His wife, Ann Romney, also defended the decision, saying “Debates, debates, debates. We’ve had so many debates, I don’t know, we have to campaign once in a while.”
Romney said Wednesday that he had informed Trump about his decision and that Trump “understood my perspective and wished me well.”
However, Trump said he is shocked by the decision and said Romney is missing a prime opportunity to win his support. The real estate mogul has dismissed criticism of the Dec. 27 event, saying thousands of people want the debate.
Trump has never hosted a political debate before but he has flirted with the possibility of running for president. He has pledged that he will address important issues.