Georgia debate canceled after all but Gingrich decline

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

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

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

That prompted CNN to pull the plug late Thursday afternoon. “Without full participation of all four candidates, CNN will not move forward with the Super Tuesday debate,” the network said in a statement.

“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, Ariz., on Feb. 22 and will be moderated by CNN’s John King,” it said.

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

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