With Romney and Paul Out, CNN Cancels Georgia Debate

A GOP presidential debate planned for the week before Super Tuesday has been canceled after Mitt Romney and Ron Paul said they would not be attending. Rick Santorum’s campaign had also indicated he would likely not be able to attend the debate, which was to have been sponsored by CNN.

The debate would have taken place in Atlanta. Newt Gingrich was the only GOP candidate who still planned to attend when the event was scrapped.

Turning points in Gingrich’s campaign came during two debates in South Carolina last month. He is widely seen as the most effective debater among the current field.

After the news broke Thursday that the Georgia debate would not happen, Gingrich campaign spokesperson RC Hammond tweeted, “Mitt Romney spits in Georgia’s face and cancels Atlanta debate.” Minutes later, he emailed FOX 5’s Chris Shaw, calling Romney’s decision to bow out “puzzling. Here you have a candidate saying, ‘I’m not good enough to vote for,’ but turns around and says to Georgia, ‘You’re not good enough for me to show up and debate.’”

Ron Paul also told organizers Thursday morning he would not attend the debate, and sources say later in the day, Rick Santorum made the same decision.

A spokesperson for the Romney campaign sent FOX 5 the following email: “Governor Romney will be spending a lot of time campaigning in Georgia and Ohio ahead of Super Tuesday. With eight other states voting on March 6, we will be campaigning in other parts of the country and unable to schedule the CNN Georgia debate.”

Even without the debate, Georgia is the biggest delegate prize on Super Tuesday, and it figures to be a hotly-contested race. Romney was in Atlanta last week, and Santorum will be in Cumming on Sunday. Gingrich will be in the Atlanta area over the weekend as well.

By Lena Sullivan 02/16/2012 19:25:00

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