Donald Trump pulls out of GOP debate

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Donald Trump attends Regis Philbin's Final Show of "Live! with Regis & Kelly" at the Live with Regis & Kelly Studio on November 18, 2011 in New York, New York. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images) Neilson Barnard

Neilson Barnard

Donald Trump has abandoned plans to moderate a Republican presidential debate after all but two of the candidates announced they would not attend.

Trump's decision also follows suggestions from Republican National Commiittee chairman Reince Priebus and others that it would be inappropriate for Trump to moderate a Republican debate while openly weighing an independent run for the White House. Trump told CBS News Political Hotsheet last month that he could enter the race in May if "the right person doesn't get nominated" by the Republican Party.

"It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama Administration, but if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate," Trump said in a statement. "Therefore, so that there is no conflict of interest within the Republican Party, I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate. The American people are embarrassed by the gridlock currently taking place in Washington. I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again!"

Trump went on to thank the two candidates who had agreed to participate in the Newsmax-sponsored debate, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, and say that "this would not only have been the most watched debate, but also the most substantive and interesting debate!"

A representative for Newsmax could not immediately be reached to discuss the status of the debate, which was to take place December 27 in Des Moines.

Many of the Republican presidential candidates have met with Trump - some repeatedly - and appeared to hold out hope he for an endorsement. The reality-show hosting real estate mogul was atop polls of GOP presidential contenders in April

Yet the planned debate was treated largely as a sideshow, with Ron Paul and Jon Huntmsan mocking it shortly after it was announced. (Paul called it "beneath the office of the presidency.") Michele Bachmann questioned Trump's objectivity and eventually said she wouldn't attend, while Rick Perry said he was focused on retail campaigning in Iowa and thus was also opting out. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, said last Tuesday that he was too busy to appear.

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