RNC Chairman Reince Preibus came out Thursday against an upcoming GOP presidential primary debate set to be moderated by real estate mogul Donald Trump.
Preibus, who had earlier said it was up to the candidates to decide if they wanted to attend the Dec. 27 event, expressed concern over ongoing talk by Trump that he would consider mounting a third party run if the party's ultimate choice of candidate was not one that he agreed with.
"We appreciate what Mr. Trump has done, but if you're still talking about potentially running as an independent candidate, I think that's a problem," Priebus said on Fox News. "I think that would be malpractice for me as an RNC chairman to not believe that that is an issue."
(Video above via Politico)
"I think that having a successful businessman serving as a moderator has a lot of volume," Preibus continued, "but the issue here is whether the moderator should still be a person who's still batting around the idea of running as an independent. I think that should give some of these candidates some concern."
Republican strategist Karl Rove had earlier encouraged Preibus to take a vocal stance against the debate, which he characterized as a distracting sideshow that could only damage participants.
"It's going to be a giant ego trip, and anybody who thinks that Donald Trump is going to be the equivalent of Bret Baier or any of the other moderators we've had is kidding themselves," Rove said earlier this week. He later predicted that the debate would get the worst ratings of any this year.
The GOP field has not been quick to embrace Trump's debate. Only former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum have confirmed that they would partake in the event, sponsored by NewsMax and set to air on the ION television network. Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman both scoffed at the prospect, drawing an insult from Trump, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told the reality show host this week that he would be too busy campaigning to attend.
On Thursday, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann became the latest candidate to tip-toe around the issue, telling Fox News that her campaign hadn't decided yet.
"We haven't made up our mind on this," Bachmann said. "I like Donald Trump a lot. We have a very good relationship but there's a couple of issues behind the scenes. One of them is, as you mentioned this morning, whether or not Donald Trump himself will be a candidate -- and he was also on television saying that he was leaning toward one candidate. Even if he was leaning towards me, it just -- it suggests the idea of bias and I just don't know if that that's necessarily the right format."