I just knew there was a tremor in the force yesterday. So, during our morning editorial board meeting, I sent an e-mail to the executive assistant of a certain New York-based real-estate mogul. “Wondering if Mr. Trump were available for a quick chat,” I wrote. The increased criticisms of the Dec. 27 Newsmax-Ion Television debate got me to wondering if Donald Trump would drop out of participating in the Iowa gathering.

When we spoke after his appearance on “The View,” Trump said, “The Republican Party is very concerned I may run as an independent.” He said that he’d been told that the candidates seeking the presidential nomination would participate if he announced that he would not run as an independent. Ain’t gonna happen, Trump told me in so many words.

Well, this afternoon, Trump pulled the plug on his participation.

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very concerned that sometime after the final episode of The Apprentice, on May 20th, when the equal time provisions are no longer applicable to me, I will announce my candidacy for President of the United States as an Independent and that, unless I conclusively agree not to run as an Independent,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!

The statement is classic Trump. There’s a mention of his reality television show, the date of its season finale, his desire for the right GOP candidate to be nominated, his threat to run for president himself if he doesn’t like the nominee and his confidence in his ability to draw high ratings. The praise of Gingrich and Santorum for their “courage, conviction and confidence” is a not-so-veiled smack at the others for not participating, particularly Mitt Romney.

“Romney doesn’t look courageous” and he looks “indecisive” by not doing the Newsmax debate, said Trump, who believes this is one of the reasons why Romney is sliding in the polls against Gingrich.

By decisively pulling out of the Newsmax debate and blunting whatever damage may come from being associated with what had all the makings of a spectacular failure, Trump is courageously protecting the one thing he holds most dear: Trump.