So, how's that Donald Trump debate shaping up? So far, it looks like it's going to be two hours of watching Rick Santorum try to get a word in edgewise between Trump-as-moderator and Newt Gingrich -- the Scylla and Charybdis of unrestrained bloviation. That's because Texas Governor Rick Perry joins Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, and Mitt Romney as 2012ers who have officially opted-out of Newsmax's Cirque de So-What-Now?
Maggie Haberman has the statement from the Perry camp. You know this is from Perry because of the omission of the word "are" in the second sentence:
Governor Perry has talked to Donald Trump in recent days and respects him and the folks at NewsMax very much. There two debates in the next 7 days.
Traditional retail campaigning in the days and weeks leading up to the Iowa caucus is the Perry campaign's top priority. In the coming weeks, Gov. Perry will be in Iowa almost continually, meeting with real voters, doing town hall meetings and events and talking American jobs, faith and overhauling Washington, DC to Iowa voters.
The statement reiterates at the end that Perry is "respectfully" declining to attend. They really want to make their "respect" for the debate organizers very clear. Mad respect, is what they have, don't get it twisted! But didn't I say just yesterday that this is a mistake, because it leaves the door open for Trump's deadly, deadly endorsement of death?
Republican party elites have taken a dim view of this Trump debate from the outset. This past Monday, Karl Rove took to Fox News to beg the RNC to "discourage" candidates from participating, and today, Reince Priebus did just that, saying "the issue here is whether the moderator should still be a person who's still batting around the idea of running as an independent." The only invitee we haven't heard from definitively is Michele Bachmann, but she seems to be leaning against participating as well. [UPDATE, 6:12pm: ABC News Michael Falcone tweets that Bachmann is now declining to attend the debate as well.]
Naturally, the last thing Rick Perry needs between now and the Iowa Caucus is to participate in one more debate, seeing as how his previous performances have been...well -- not good. As things stand, he's already facing the prospects of competing in the two previously-scheduled Iowa debates (December 10 in Des Moines and December 15 in Sioux City). Given the tremendous uncertainty surrounding what may happen with Donald Trump at the reins, skipping out will definitely be recorded as one of Perry's better decisions.
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