Photograph by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images.
UPDATE: Donald Trump won't be moderating a GOP presidential debate after all.
The celebrity real estate tycoon broke the news Tuesday, several days after it became clear that if he went through with plans to moderate Newsmax's Dec. 27 event in Iowa, he'd only have two candidates to question (Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum).
But have no fear, The Donald steered well clear of admitting defeat, instead saying he opted out of the debate because he is unwilling to officially rule out a third-party run for the White House, a possibility that he says has left the GOP contenders "very concerned."
"It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama Administration, but if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate," the reality star said in a statement. "Therefore, so that there is no conflict of interest within the Republican Party, I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate."
Here's the full thing (via Politico):
The Republican Party candidates are very concerned that sometime after the final episode of The Apprentice, on May 20th, when the equal time provisions are no longer applicable to me, I will announce my candidacy for President of the United States as an Independent and that, unless I conclusively agree not to run as an Independent, they will not agree to attend or be a part of the Newsmax debate scheduled for December 27, 2011. It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama Administration, but if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate. Therefore, so that there is no conflict of interest within the Republican Party, I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate. The American people are embarrassed by the gridlock currently taking place in Washington. I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again!
I would like to thank Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for having the courage, conviction, and confidence to immediately accept being a part of the Newsmax debate. I believe this would not only have been the most watched debate, but also the most substantive and interesting debate!
Friday, Dec. 9: Now Donald Trump might not have the debate at all.
"I'll have to look into it," the celebrity real estate tycoon told the Fox Business Network after Michele Bachmann became the fifth candidate to decline an invitation to his Newsmax-sponsored Dec. 27 GOP debate.
Trump also responded to Bachmann's RSVP. Unsurprisingly, he's not that thrilled with her decision not to show up, leaving only Gingrich and Santorum participating (if it happens at all).
Trump's response, via the AP, does not disappoint:
She came up to see me four times. She would call me and ask me for advice," Trump said. "She said if she wins, she would like to think about me for the vice presidency. Most importantly, I did a two-hour phone call for her with her people. ... And after all that, she announced she was not going to do the debate. It's called loyalty. How do you do that? It's amazing to me.
UPDATE Friday, Dec 9, 10:10 AM: Michele Bachmann has become the fifth Republican candidate to tell Donald Trump thanks, but no thanks when it comes to the Newsmax debate he is hosting later this month.
ABC News reports that the Minnesota lawmaker, who has been actively courting the reality star, officially took a pass on Thursday. No word on exactly how she worded her RSVP, but we're guessing it was closer to how Rick Perry did it (a polite no) than to how Ron Paul did ("I didn't realize he had the ability to lay on hands and anoint people").
Bachmann's decision leaves Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum as the only two candidates expected to partake in the Trump-moderated festivities.
Thursday, Dec. 8: Rick Perry on Thursday declined an invitation to Newsmax’s Donald Trump-hosted debate. The Texan's decision to sit out the December 27 event in Des Moines leaves Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum as the only two confirmed participants.
Perry joins Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul in declining. Michele Bachmann is undecided. As the Atlantic Wire points out, pretty much every GOP presidential hopeful has met with Trump during the campaign season, presumably to appeal to his perceived base of supporters and to gain from his ability to attract and maintain media attention.
Perry's camp stressed that the governor had spoken to Trump and "respects him and the folks at Newsmax very much," but said that ultimately the busy debate and campaign schedule for that week would mean the candidate would pass on participating in the Iowa event.
Perry’s polite note was much more delicate than the statements made by Paul and Huntsman, who were the first two to decline the invitation. Paul told CNN, "I don't quite understand the marching to his office…I didn't realize he had the ability to lay on hands and anoint people." Trump, as would be expected, dismissed Paul to the New York Daily News as a “clown-like” candidate and said he was "glad" Paul and Huntsman would not be there.
Romney cited the busy debate schedule for December as his reason for not participating, the New York Times says.
Newsmax said they chose Trump to moderate the debate because he appeals to voters not served by the previous debates.
Karl Rove has urged candidates not to participate in the debate. But Newsmax has rounded up a list of endorsers for the Trump debate that include Faith and Freedom Coalition head Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist and Tea Party leaders.