This is a ploy by the candidates to make sure Gingrich doesn’t get any more attention for the Georgia primary.
Updated: February 16, 2012 | 4:14 p.m.
CNN canceled its March 1 Republican presidential debate on Thursday after three of four candidates declined to participate, citing busy campaign schedules leading to Super Tuesday on March 6.
“Mitt Romney and Ron Paul told the Georgia Republican Party, Ohio Republican Party, and CNN Thursday that they will not participate in the March 1 Republican presidential primary debate,” CNN said in a statement. “Without full participation of all four candidates, CNN will not move forward with the Super Tuesday debate.”
Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum also said he would not participate, leaving only former House Speaker Newt Gingrich committed to attending.
Still scheduled is a Feb. 22 debate sponsored by CNN and the Arizona Republican Party in Mesa, Ariz. It will be moderated by CNN’s John King.
Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, said, “With eight other states voting on March 6, we will be campaigning in other parts of the country and unable to schedule the CNN Georgia debate. We have participated in 20 debates, including eight from CNN.”
Santorum “has no plans of doing it right now,” spokesman Hogan Gidley said of the March 1 debate.
Gingrich, whose home state is Georgia, had planned to take part. “The Romney model is to go to Wall Street and raise huge amounts of money to run negative ads,” he said. “And you can understand why having to defend that strategy is probably not something he’s very happy with.”