Updated February 16, 3:45 p.m. ET
CNN announced Thursday that the debate has been called off: “”Without full participation of all four candidates, CNN will not move forward with the Super Tuesday debate. However, next week, CNN and the Arizona Republican Party will host all four leading contenders for the GOP nomination. That debate will be held in Mesa, Arizona on February 22 and will be moderated by CNN’s John King.”
The original post follows:
A Republican debate that was set to be held on March, five days before Super Tuesday, now appears to be on ice — with Newt Gingrich the only candidate confirmed for it, and the others either turning it down or not accepting.
The debate is (or was) set to be held in Atlanta, and was set to be hosted by CNN and the state Republican parties of both Georgia and Ohio. Recent polls have shown favorite son Newt Gingrich with a big lead in Georgia, and Rick Santorum pulling ahead comfortably in Ohio.
But the dominoes really started falling Thursday, after Mitt Romney opted to not accept the invitation.
“Governor Romney will be spending a lot of time campaigning in Georgia and Ohio ahead of Super Tuesday,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the Weekly Standard in an e-mail. “With eight other states voting on March 6th, 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 8 from CNN.”
And now, National Journal reports, Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley says that the candidate “has no plans of doing it right now.”