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stuck in the mittle

Mitt Romney Declines Donald Trump Debate [Updated]

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman (L) confers with former House speaker Newt Gingrich (C) and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) prior to the start of the Republican presidential debate on national security November 22, 2011 at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. The debate is hosted by CNN in partnership with the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.    AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

After probably too much thought, considering the event is to be moderated by Donald Trump and will air on some network called ION, Mitt Romney has opted to decline the upcoming Newsmax debate planned for late December in Iowa, where Romney now trails Newt Gingrich in the polls. In the "no" column, Romney joins John Huntsman, who said the GOP needs only "serious discussion," and Ron Paul, who quipped that Trump's "wildly inappropriate" selection as host would "contribute to an unwanted circus-like atmosphere." Gingrich, the current pack leader and momentum machine, on the other hand, accepted via Twitter.

Who's clowning whom? 

Ben Smith notes at Politico that when Romney was feeling more untouchable and Rick Perry was having trouble speaking, the Romney campaign was all about debates. "Being Republicans, the natural way you would look at this is let the market decide — and these debates have extremely large audiences," said Romney adviser Stuart Stevens, adding, "I don't see why it's a disservice to just let people talk ... "

Perhaps Romney will use distance from Trump, and therefore Gingrich, as a way to project seriousness and electability among the reality-show buffoonery, or maybe, as far as the market goes, Romney hadn't heard of ION either.

Update: Trump has promptly responded, duh, because Trump doesn't want a real political debate, he wants more drama. So maybe everyone wins, except America (and Huntsman):

It would seem logical to me that if I was substantially behind in the polls, especially in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida, I would be participating in the debate. But, I can also understand why Governor Romney decided not to do it.

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Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images