Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and reality-television star, has pulled the plug on his own debate after top GOP candidates declined his invitation and several party leaders said the event was a bad idea since Trump was considering a presidential bid of his own.
Trump, in canceling the Dec. 27 Iowa debate, said that he reserved his right to mount an independent presidential campaign.
“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,” he 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.”
Former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former House speaker Newt Gingrich had both agreed to take part in the debate. All the other major Republican candidates, however, either cited scheduling conflicts or Trump’s role as a reason to skip the event.
Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) and former Utah governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. were particularly critical, saying that the debate was beneath the dignity of a presidential run.
Former White House adviser Karl Rove weighed in, as well, saying that the Republican National Committee chairman had a duty to encourage GOP candidates to avoid the debate, given that Trump could launch an independent campaign.
Trump has flirted with a run since the spring, and nearly every candidate has gone to New York to meet with him.