Texas Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul is refusing to take part in the upcoming Republican debate in Iowa because the selected moderator, reality television star Donald Trump, contributes a “circus like atmosphere” to the event.
“The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the Presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity,” Paul campaign chairman Jessie Benton said in a press statement over the weekend.
“Trump’s participation as moderator will distract from questions and answers concerning important issues such as the national economy, crushing federal government debt, the role of the federal government, foreign policy, and the like.
“To be sure, Mr. Trump’s participation will contribute to an unwanted circus-like atmosphere.”
The Paul campaign added that Trump, who mulled a run for the presidency earlier this year, embarrassed the Republican Party of Iowa when he was invited to keynote the group’s annual Reagan Dinner, and then cancelled at the last minute.
The Republican Party of Iowa was also forced to refund a great deal of money because of Trump’s cancelling, the Paul campaign noted.
Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman echoed Congressman Paul’s sentiments this weekend, saying he would also have to decline the debate invitation due to Trump’s presence.
Trump shot back at the two candidates through The New York Daily News, saying he was more popular as a presidential hopeful than either Ron Paul or Jon Huntsman.
“I am glad he [Paul] and Jon Huntsman, who [have] inconsequential poll numbers or a chance of winning, will not be attending the debate and wasting the time of viewers who are trying very hard to make an important decision,” Trump said.
Taking a leaf out of Benton’s book, Trump especially went after Ron Paul, calling him “clown-like” in comparison to favorites Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, whom Trump is expected to endorse.
“Few people take Ron Paul seriously and many of his views and presentation make him a clown-like candidate,” Trump said.
Bad blood between the two Republicans started at the annual CPAC convention last February, when Trump said during his speech at the event that “there is no way Ron Paul can get elected.”
Paul went on to win the convention’s straw poll for the second year running.
Later on Sunday, Paul told CNN that he has gotten a lot of support from Iowa Republicans for sticking it to Trump. “They were very unhappy with the way he [Trump] treated them, just stiffing them and walking away like that, he said.
Paul added that he does not see why Republican candidates are “marching to his office” curry favor from him. “I didn’t know he had an ability to lay on hands and anoint people,” Paul said.
One of those candidates, the newly-resurgent Newt Gingrich, marched into Trump’s Manhattan office on Monday to see the Donald’s approval. The former House Speaker then defended his new friend during a press conference, reports Politico. “I’m actually very surprised that one of my friends would have said that,” Gingrich said, referring to Paul’s “circus like atmosphere” remark, noting that Ronald Reagan was once a b-movie actor and Jimmy Carter a peanut farmer.
“This is a country of enormously wide-open talent. You know, Donald Trump is a great showman. He’s also a great businessman. … I think that we have to be open to new ways of doing things and new ways of approaching things,” Gingrich said.
Trump said he would not endorse a candidate until after the Iowa debate.
A senior Paul campaign source pushed back hard against the new Gingrich-Trump alliance, in an e-mail to Politico.
“We agree, of course, with former Speaker Gingrich — this is a country of people of enormous talent. Those who deliver thousands of babies like Dr. Paul and those who spend their time focusing on promoting themselves for profit. We even have those who lobby, but don’t call it such because, as they say, they can make $60,000 per speech. While those of us in the Paul camp might disagree with Newt Gingrich about whether Donald Trump is the right man to host a serious political debate, we do agree New York is a wonderful place to go at Christmas. We are sure two average Americans like Speaker Gingrich and Donald Trump will have a wonderful time picking out gifts for their wives. We suggest a place called Tiffany’s, we her it is quite nice this time of year and given their celebrity status they can probably get special deals and $500,000 lines of credit.”