Romney skips out on Trump debate

Mitt Romney (file) and Donald Trump (file)
Mitt Romney (file) and Donald Trump (file)
Laura Segall/Reuters; Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Looks like Willard M. Romney successfully weaseled out of an invite to the Donald Trump reality show Republican debate. The Republican candidate today said he officially turned down the offer over the phone.

“I’m not participating,” Romney told Fox News. “I spoke with Donald Trump earlier today and indicated that we just can’t make this debate.” He said Trump “understood” where he was coming from and wished him well.

Donald Trump responded to Romney’s decision through a written statement. It reads, “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.”

It’s a little passive-aggressive for the reality TV show star. Normally, he’s just aggressive; yesterday he called Jon Hunstman and Ron Paul “joke candidates” for refusing to attend the December 27 event in Des Moines, Iowa.

So far, only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum RSVP-ed yes. Karl Rove has been one of the most outspoken of the GOP establishment advocating against it. The conservative outlet NewsMax plans to sponsor the affair to remember.

A NBC News poll released over the weekend suggests Trump’s endorsement may be bad for the candidates. Among likely Iowa caucus-goers, 32 percent say Trump’s stamp of approval makes them less likely to vote for a person.