Michele Bachmann made her decision about attending the Newsmax/ION debate to be hosted by Donald Trump on December 27, and the answer is no. That leaves only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to take the stage, along with the famously low-key moderator. As Newsmax reports:
“We have confirmed that we are not participating,” Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart told ABC News late Thursday.
Her staff did not say specifically why she had decided to skip the Dec. 27 debate scheduled in Des Moines, Iowa. Bachmann has made numerous visits to Trump Tower in the past few months seeking the real estate mogul’s endorsement. Earlier in the week she praised the debate and Trump for having a “voice” in the 2012 race.
It doesn’t look like Bachmann thinks she’ll be picking up that endorsement, which is a fair enough reason to pass on the debate.
Newsmax hastened to list the “major conservative groups and leaders” that have “endorsed the debate vocally throughout the week,” including:
Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform
Sean Hannity of Fox News
Former Alaska governor and 2008 vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin
Ralph Reed, Faith and Freedom Coalition
Tea Party Express
Political analyst and columnist Dick Morris
Jeffrey Lord, former Reagan aide
Al Cardenas, American Conservative Union
Iowa Rep. Steve King
The Institute for Liberty
And now the Tea Party Express, which has decided to sponsor the debate, and is probably a bit disappointed that Bachmann declined to participate. Sarah Palin also advised the candidates to attend, making essentially the same point I did yesterday about attracting a different audience to witness a Republican debate. (Sadly, I’m not a “major conservative group or leader” in the eyes of Newsmax yet. No hard feelings, guys!)
“What is a bit appealing about this idea of Trump hosting a debate is, consider the diverse audience that perhaps he can attract,” [Palin] said. “It’s important that independents and those who are not obsessed with inside-baseball partisan politics, which is most of us, we’d like to hear more of the message of each one of these candidates and perhaps Donald Trump will be able to attract a diverse demographic that maybe has not been as interested in this horse race thus far.”
This becomes a less compelling point when only two of the candidates turn up for the debate, although one of them is the current front-runner, and would probably be willing to debate himself if Santorum catches a cold after spending all that time running around Iowa. (He’s been putting in a heroic effort on the ground in Iowa, an under-reported story in this primary season.)
Somewhat surprisingly, given how highly Trump has been speaking of him lately, one person who has not endorsed the Newsmax/ION debate is Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. According to Politico, he’s not mincing words, either:
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus spoke out Thursday against an upcoming GOP presidential debate to be moderated by Donald Trump, saying it would be “malpractice” for him as the leader of the party not to think the debate was problematic.
“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.”
Although Priebus repeated a previously made assertion that it was simply up to the candidates to “do whatever they want to do,” the RNC head repeated that Trump’s continued flirtation with a potential 2012 bid for the White House concerned him.
“I think that having a successful businessman serving as a moderator has a lot of value. 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,” he said.
(Emphasis mine.) Also against the debate are John McCain and Karl Rove, whom Donald Trump does not generally speak well of.
So, the stage is set for some good old fashioned factional in-fighting, assuming the lack of a quorum doesn’t prompt Gingrich and/or Santorum to bow out. A round of back-biting might sound like a dismal prospect, but really, this is the best time for Republicans to get it out of their systems. If only we could be confident they would vent the full contents of their spleen upon Donald Trump in December, instead of keeping those spleens limbered up for inappropriate moments during the general election.