Romney, Paul and Santorum will skip March 1 debate

CNN cancelled their March 1 debate in Georgia after Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum signaled Thursday that they would not attend, meaning the GOP field will meet just once again before the critical "Super Tuesday" vote March 6.

Mitt Romney's campaign — the first to say it would not participate — said scheduling conflicts would prevent the former governor from attending.

"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," said Andrea Saul, Romney's campaign press secretary. "Gov. Romney will be spending a lot of time campaigning in Georgia and Ohio ahead of Super Tuesday."

She noted that Romney has participated in eight other debates hosted by CNN, and 20 previous GOP debates total.

Georgia GOP chairman Sue Everhart told The Atlanta Journal Constitution that Ron Paul would also skip the event, while Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley told the National Journal that the former senator "has no plans of doing it right now."

CNN said later Thursday afternoon that the debate would be cancelled.

"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. However, next week, CNN and the Arizona Republican Party will host all four leading contenders for the GOP nomination. That debate will be held in Mesa, Arizona on February 22 and will be moderated by CNN's John King."

The GOP candidates still have a final debate scheduled for March 19 in Portland, Oregon.

— Justin Sink contributed reporting to this article. 

— Updated at 3:45 p.m.