It was fun while it lasted — which is to say, it wasn’t much fun at all. Donald Trump’s debate died Tuesday afternoon, a little more than a week after it was announced.
Perhaps it was doomed from the start. Trump couldn’t pull together enough candidates to fill the podiums: Only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum agreed to participate. The others cited concerns over Trump’s flirtation with an independent bid if his favorite candidate isn’t nominated. So enough is enough, Trump decided. Here’s Trump’s full statement Tuesday:
“The Republican Party candidates are very concerned that sometime after the final episode of The Apprentice, on May 20th, when the equal time provisions are no longer applicable to me, I will announce my candidacy for President of the United States as an Independent and that, unless I conclusively agree not to run as an Independent, they will not agree to attend or be a part of the Newsmax debate scheduled for December 27, 2011. It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama Administration, but if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate. Therefore, so that there is no conflict of interest within the Republican Party, I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate. The American people are embarrassed by the gridlock currently taking place in Washington. I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again!
But it’s with misty eyes we say goodbye to “The Donald’s” debate. We had such high hopes. Even after candidate after candidate denied him, Trump pushed on. He told the Fox Business Network last week that he was reconsidering. Trump said he, Santorum and Gingrich might just have a “chat” instead of a debate.
And just Monday, Trump basically took credit for Gingrich’s surge in the polls, and Mitt Romney’s stumble. On Romney, Trump said: “His numbers have gone down very substantially since he said no. And a lot of people think it’s because it showed a lack of decisiveness or a lack of courage going into this debate.”
We’ll never know what the most-watched, No. 1 debate, best-yet debate will look like. But thankfully debates aren’t in short supply this primary season.
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com