Some are puzzled that Mitt Romney is avoiding the Donald Trump debate. It is simple really: He has no intention of being part of the clown show. And in this case, his not going is a way to differentiate himself from Newt Gingrich. He chose not to say that explicitly and alienate Trump further (ever cautious, he is), but it’s very clear why he’s doing it.

There is a mini-backlash about the Trump circus and those who offered to attend. Peter Wehner writes: “A party that identifies itself with clownish figures will soon be seen by the public, and rightly so, as clownish.Here’s some unsolicited advice to the GOP: a party that featured Herman Cain as a top-tier challenger for the nomination doesn’t need Donald Trump to host a presidential debate. Can a roundtable discussion with the Kardashian sisters be far behind?” Karl Rove gave the same advice: Stay away.

The National Review editors recognized that some struggling candidates may need to attend, but they admonished: “Gingrich’s decision is something worse. Sure, we see the angle: Gingrich excels in debates and he knows it, and in light of his threat to Romney in Iowa, his participation all but dares the yet-uncommitted Mitt to irk the pro-Trump rump of GOP voters by refusing. As a serious contender running a campaign with maximal pride in its own seriousness, Gingrich lowers himself by association with this consummately unserious man.” Once again we see that Gingrich’s impulsiveness and lack of personal restraint coupled with his need for affirmation by the rich and powerful often get the best of him.

And is the Trump endorsement something to be coveted, or like Herman Cain’s, does it suggest the recipient is as lacking in morals and seriousness as the endorser?

The interesting thing about the first presidential contest is that it is a caucus. You get no secret ballot. You must stand up among neighbors, friends, fellow congregants and co-workers to announce your vote. To do that, I would think, you have to respect the candidate of your choice and take some pride in supporting his or her candidacy. It therefore is arguably that much more important in a caucus setting for the candidates to provide positive reasons to vote for them and as much assurance as possible that it’s not a vote their supporters will regret. This is doubly so for values voters when the candidates’ moral fiber and character are front and center. (“Remember when Pastor Jones voted for Gingrich!”)

As we head into the final weeks before Iowa, candidates should focus on appearing presidential, giving their supporters reason to publicly support them. No one wants to vote in public for a shady character or a sleazy showman for president. The candidates should be careful not to make voters embarrassed to vote for them. In that regard, jumping when Trump bellows is a foolish and self-defeating move.