CNN pulls the plug on GOP presidential debate in Atlanta

A March 1 debate of the four remaining GOP presidential candidates — the 22st of the primary season — collapsed on Thursday after Mitt Romney and Ron Paul declared they preferred to be elsewhere.

CNN just confirmed that it had exercised its option to pull the plug on the event, which was to be held five days before the March 6 Super Tuesday, when Georgia and nine other states go to the polls.

The event was to be co-hosted by the Georgia and Ohio GOP.

“Mitt Romney and Ron Paul told the Georgia Republican Party, Ohio Republican Party and CNN Thursday that they will not participate in the March 1 Republican presidential primary debate,” CNN said in a statement. “Without full participation of all four candidates, CNN will not move forward with the Super Tuesday debate. ”

The statement said CNN and the Arizona Republican Party will host all four leading contenders for the GOP nomination on Feb. 22 in Mesa, Ariz.

Georgia GOP chairman Sue Everhart said both Romney and Paul formally turned down their invitations within minutes of each other this morning.

Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg sent this word to my AJC colleague Aaron Sheinin:

Gov. Romney will be spending a lot of time campaigning in Georgia and Ohio ahead of Super Tuesday. 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.

Here was the immediate reaction from Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond, via Twitter:

@MittRomney spits in Georgia’s face and cancels Atlanta debate appearance. #CNN

My AJC colleague Daniel Malloy, with Gingrich in Los Angeles, obtained this response from the candidate:

“Our expectation is we will participate in all the debates. The Romney model is go to Wall Street an raise huge amounts of money to run negative ads, and you can understand why having to defend that strategy is probably not something he’s very happy about.”

One interpretation: This may be in fact an indication of what Romney thinks his current chances are in both Georgia and Ohio.

A Rasmussen poll of Ohio voters has Romney trailing Rick Santorum, 42 to 24 percent. And an AJC poll of Republican voters in Georgia last week had Romney running third behind a rising Santorum.

The former Massachusetts governor has been in Georgia twice in the last four months – but each time, the emphasis was on fund-raising.

Another interpretation: Romney is the candidate with the cash, and this could be his way of denying free media to his financially strapped rivals on the eve of the biggest election day of the primary so far. Georgia and Ohio have the two largest caches of delegates in play on March 6, 76 and 66, respectively.

A tidbit that may be an argument for the latter motive: Earlier this morning, we reported that Santorum was about drop some money on TV ads in Georgia. Now it turns out that it is a small investment — only $55,000 on Fox News, statewide.

Even so, giving up on the state doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Georgia allots its delegates proportionally – by congressional district – and in 2008, Romney ran well in metro Atlanta, and on the coast. He took 30 percent of the vote by winning only nine of 159 counties.

GOP counsel Anne Lewis offered this breakdown of how Georgia Republican delegates to Tampa will be divided:

– 42 come from congressional districts (3 x 14) and are pledged as follows: If a candidate gets more than 50% of the district vote, that person gets all 3 delegates. If no one does, then the top vote getter in the district vote gets 2 and the second place finisher gets 1

– 31 come from the state at large and are pledged as follows: A candidate has to get more than 20% to get any delegates; among those, the candidates get the percentage of delegates equal to the candidate’s percentage of the statewide vote. Any delegates leftover after that are distributed sequentially to those qualified to get any delegates.

– 3 are the RNC man and woman and chairman of the State Party, who are all pledged to the top vote getter statewide.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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147 comments Add your comment

Georgia, The " New Mississippi "

February 16th, 2012
2:09 pm

Slick Mitt should skip the debate in Ga…. Just like Dubya passed on an invitation to speak to the NAACP………..What purpose would it serve ?

Tim

February 16th, 2012
2:10 pm

Not to get off-topic…..

Jim, I was wondering if any Georgia legislator has filed a medical marijuana bill. The AJC totally ignores this subject, it doesn’t even report what is going on in other states. For instance, people who read the AJC might not be aware that voters in Washington state will be voting whether or not to legalize pot for recreational purposes in November.

Do we have any progressive Democratic legislators left? I mean seriously, medical marijuana bills have been filed in the legislatures of Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, West Virginia, and North Carolina. There is discussion going on in Virginia. So every state that borders Georgia except South Carolina– is discussing medical marijuana.

So I blame the AJC, Creative Loafing, and the rest of the local media for not even bringing up the discussion. Are the other southern states really that more progressive? Really?

And for the current topic… I think Mitt has conceded Georgia to Newt since it is his old stumping ground. But I think it’s a mistake, because many Republicans here are not fond of Newt.

dbj

February 16th, 2012
2:11 pm

I’m not sure I agree with Mitt on this one, but I also can’t imagine that they already think they have no chance in Georgia. I guess they figure that Santorum and Gingrich depend on these debates a lot more than he does.

Not Suprised

February 16th, 2012
2:11 pm

Why would Romney step into a debate being touted by the Tea Party Patriot group that is doing all they can do to shove Santorum down the throats of conservatives? You’ve got one self proclaimed TPP leader actively working on the Santorum campaign and the other still pushing Newt at times and swinging to Santorum on others.
In addition you have crony establishment individuals, Randy Evans, BJ Vangundy and our Raw Gov Deal, within the GA GOP trying to shove Newt down the others.

Romney is better off working directly with his team and getting to the voters than getting attacked at a biased debate…and yes, some are already talking about the questions.

Good for him, the Georgia GOP and Tea Party have become political embarrassments.

Bobby

February 16th, 2012
2:12 pm

A conservative, a liberal, and a moderate walk into a bar. Hi Mitt, says the bartender. (I saw this somewhere, last week, I forget where. I thought it pretty much how most people view Mitt).

Look before I leap...

February 16th, 2012
2:13 pm

Strategically there is some logic in not attending the debate.
I can’t speak to OH, but there are not many fence-sitters here in GA.
The debate is unlikely to move anyone off their candidate of choice.
A poor showing on Romney’s part may echo into the other Super Tuesday primary states.

The downside is it makes him look like a chicken-sh*t.

Becky

February 16th, 2012
2:18 pm

Is this the 25th debate? YAWN

[...] 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) By Amanda Moyer The Georgia Republican Party is getting …Mitt Romney may skip GOP presidential debate in AtlantaAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)All Major Republicans Make Presidential Primary; New GOP [...]

GTPHISH

February 16th, 2012
2:19 pm

UGA 1999

February 16th, 2012
2:21 pm

I dont think he will win Georgia or Ohio, however I am surprised that he is going to skip the debate. This will not help him at all.

Independent voter

February 16th, 2012
2:21 pm

Mitt know he going to lose in the GA race and the teaparty in the south does not like him.

missmollie

February 16th, 2012
2:22 pm

This debate was set up for Newt to show off his debating skills and help him get back in “the game.” Let them have at it. Concentrate on Arizona and Michigan. Latest news says, the Michigan
Governor has just endorsed Romney. Santorum and Newt can fight it out and Paul may decide to go in another direction also. Many of the good ole boys still think Newt is a Ga “favorite son”..
They may be surprised. Gas is going to $5.00 a gallon and that will “cook the incumbent’s goose, IMO..

UGA 1999

February 16th, 2012
2:23 pm

Independent……”Mitt know(s) he (is) going to lose in teh GA(Ga.) race and the teaparty in the south does not like him.

WOW!

double

February 16th, 2012
2:24 pm

Mittmormex skipping Ga.Well he is not concerned with the poor so that explains it.Ga at bottom of list on all advancements.Top list bank failures,Mitt going where progress and money can be found.

GW

February 16th, 2012
2:24 pm

Jimmy the Cricket

February 16th, 2012
2:24 pm

If Mitt loses Ohio, he may eventually win the GOP-Teaparty nomination, but will get his arse handed to him in the general. Dontya just love American politics???

lmao

Mark

February 16th, 2012
2:26 pm

@ UGA 1999
February 16th, 2012
2:23 pm

Now that was funny!

UGA 1999

February 16th, 2012
2:27 pm

Mark….Crazy isn’t it?

Adavis62

February 16th, 2012
2:31 pm

So let’s review: the GOP leader may skip over Georgia as if we don’t matter. So if we don’t matter now, what about in Nov., and what happens IF he becomes President? Will we matter then?

td

February 16th, 2012
2:32 pm

Centrist: If Mitt skips the Ga. debate then it proves he is not competent to standing up to Obama in the general election. If he can not handle Rick, Ron and Newt then how is he going to handle Obama?

[...] Jim Galloway is hearing that Mitt Romney may skip the pre-Super Tuesday debate to be broadcast by CNN in Atlanta on March 1. [...]

missmollie

February 16th, 2012
2:33 pm

P S. This is a slap in Georgia’s face and not Romney’s….A hope for a reenactment of S. C.
Biase and arrogance….IMO.

[...] The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is hearing this too, and notes: “Contracts among the players in a debate – the hosts and [...]

Nope

February 16th, 2012
2:37 pm

If these debates were only local news that would be one thing. But this Atlanta debate will be broadcast nationally on CNN and Romney will be missing out on a big platform.

UGA 1999

February 16th, 2012
2:40 pm

I really do not think Romney will skip the debate.

Becky

February 16th, 2012
2:41 pm

Why would anyone want to be POTUS? Why don’t these cowboys just ride off into the sunset with their ill gotten gains and leave the actual governing to the experts?

double

February 16th, 2012
2:42 pm

don’t need the poor vote,I will ignore all you poor people.Obama can have you.Your vote in Ga will be for me regardless.

UGA 1999

February 16th, 2012
2:46 pm

double….(D)on’t need the poor vote(.) I will ignore all (of) you poor poeple. Obama can have (your vote). Your vote in (Ga.) will be fore me regardless.

NICE!!

double

February 16th, 2012
2:48 pm

Becky who is the experts?Past performance no gurantee future performance.Do not believe any statesman out there..

Bob

February 16th, 2012
2:49 pm

Newt should take GA and as for OH, it is a toss up between Santorum and Newt. So I guess he’s conceding these States.

Meghan

February 16th, 2012
2:52 pm

Out of sight out of mind. Great strategy for all the goper candidates.

Becky

February 16th, 2012
2:53 pm

double-who are smart

double

February 16th, 2012
2:54 pm

UGA we can’t all be perfect PEOPLE.Duh (POEPLE).

UGA 1999

February 16th, 2012
2:55 pm

Double….I know, trust me I know!

Meghan

February 16th, 2012
2:56 pm

UGA,

Spell check is your friend. Use it.

Dusty

February 16th, 2012
2:57 pm

Oh, who cares? Will they have some doofuss posing the questions like they usually do? Like liberal Stephanopolous?

I wish they would limit these “debates” to four for the one year preceeding the election. One for each fourth of the USA. Who needs all this palaver?

We lost some good candidates over little debate glitches that did not mean a thing. Now we are stuck with the ones who speak “better”. That’s exactly how we got Obama . Good talk with little behind it and now he can “debate” any time he wants at our expense.

Go for it, folks. Just don’t debate when I want to watch Downton Abbey. First things first!!!!!

DannyX

February 16th, 2012
2:58 pm

“I really do not think Romney will skip the debate.”

UAG 1993,Do yu evbr hav mor then one simpel shalow senence in yew? No wonner yew maid yewself the blaug grammer/speling pollecemann; it awl yew gaught. Wouw. Nise.

DannyX

February 16th, 2012
3:05 pm

“Now we are stuck with the ones who speak “better”.”

Dusty, then how did we get stuck with George “Great Recession” Bush?

UGA 1999

February 16th, 2012
3:08 pm

DannyX…..By Obama’s own words the recession has gotten worse under his tenure. He says that the economic crisis was “deeper and wider” than he imagined. Yep, he has really done a lot to earn your vote.

Maybe you are just like Samuel L. Jackson.

platapura

February 16th, 2012
3:16 pm

“As it stands now, the debate is still on. I’m hopeful there that there will be a change of heart, at least with Mitt Romney,” Everhart said. What kind comment from a party leader is this? We’d (the GOP leadership) would like for Romney to reconsider, but we (the GOP leadership) could care less if Paul reconsiders. What about all those disaffected Democrats, independents and young people the GOP aspires to have join their ranks. Paul is the only candidate that is drawing these people in and he makes the debates interesting instead of their being personal attacks, no ideas, no specifics, empty promises and ego trips from the likes of Gingrich. The GOP leadership in Georgia should be careful how it shows bias against the peoples’ candidate or the whole GOP could go the way of the Whig party.

PMC

February 16th, 2012
3:16 pm

I’ve decided not to vote in the presidential election.

Meghan

February 16th, 2012
3:17 pm

Breaking news-the underwear bomber will receive a lifetime of free underwear in prison. Oh! the humanity.

pwaltonuscs

February 16th, 2012
3:18 pm

I don’think there will be a Georgia \/CNN debatenow that Romney and Paul have deided not to attend debate #22

Misty Fyed

February 16th, 2012
3:22 pm

I’m a little disappointed. We need to see the new Newt and the reinvented conservative Romney. They have both been through major transformations since the last debate.

missmollie

February 16th, 2012
3:28 pm

I have a lot of respect for Ms Everhart….I remember what the Governor tried to do to her…ND
better row his own boat and stay out of Newt’s campaign. Romney was the target for this main event in Atlanta. A smart move….A smart man…..This whole debate may fall through the cracks….I hope so….I believe it was not on the main schedule initially and was an add on to
benefit Newt….

jason

February 16th, 2012
3:29 pm

Santorum isn’t taking part in the debate but that isn’t the headline. The headline is about romney.

Roadrunner

February 16th, 2012
3:30 pm

Enough of the debates already!! All they are doing is providing fodder for the re-elect Obama campaign and the sad thing its fellow Republicans giving them the ammunition they’ll use on whoever is the eventual GOP nominee.

double

February 16th, 2012
3:33 pm

Romney and Paul dread Newt..Cut and run easier than face defeat.

Proud Native Georgian

February 16th, 2012
3:35 pm

Maybe it’s just that Romney, frustrated with his campaign’s inability to gain traction nationwide, has decided to drop out of the race, thus no need to participate in the debate. As for Paul, maybe no one’s mentioned the debate to him yet. He may show up yet once he hears about it….

Samantha

February 16th, 2012
3:36 pm

I’m not the least bit suprised that they are NOT showing up to debate in Georgia. I mean why should they? The unemployment rate is much higher here than it is in this country, so why should they care? Actually NONE of the Republicans really care. So why should they pretend they do when they obviously don’t? I’m certain that blind people will still vote for a Republican candidate for president…it will be in vain, but they will vote anyway…regardless of them not caring about you. So sad. :(