Romney turns down Gingrich debate challenge out of ‘respect’ for rest of field

Mitt Romney rejected an offer for a two-man debate with Republican presidential rival Newt Gingrich out of "respect" to other candidates in the race. 

“I’m not gonna narrow this down to a two-person race while there’s still a number of other candidates that are viable, important candidates in the race, and I want to show respect to them,” Romney said.

Gingrich, a former House Speaker, challenged Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, to a one-on-one debate in Iowa before the Jan. 3 caucuses.

Gingrich's campaign has made an effort to push back on ads, funded by a political action committee supporting Romney, that have flooded the airwaves in early-voting states. 

Gingrich's once-ballooning poll numbers have deflated in the past week as he has struggled to combat the attacks; a Rasmussen poll released Wednesday showed Gingrich trailing both Romney, by 7 points, and Ron Paul, by 3 points.

Gingrich has been making debates a central focus of his campaign, organizing two-man "Lincoln-Douglas" style debates, first with former candidate Herman Cain and then with Jon Huntsman.