Donald Trump may have mastered the art of the real-estate deal, but when it comes to debates, he’s still an apprentice.
The celebrity businessman is having difficulty securing commitments from Republican presidential candidates for a Dec. 27 debate that he’s planning to moderate in Des Moines, Iowa.
Mitt Romney became the latest big-name candidate to send his regrets, telling Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that he informed Trump earlier on Tuesday that he would be too busy to appear. Romney noted that he already is planning to participate in two previously scheduled debates in Iowa this month.
"I understand why Governor Romney decided not to do it," Trump told ABC News. He declined to elaborate further.
Other candidates who have declined: Rep. Ron Paul and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. In an interview on Monday with CNBC’s Larry Kudlow, Huntsman dismissed the Trump debate as a publicity stunt.
Running for president "isn't about ratings for Donald Trump; this is about jobs for the American people," Huntsman told Kudlow.
Newly minted front-runner Newt Gingrich has announced he will attend the Trump debate, as has former Sen. Rick Santorum.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., remain uncommitted, but on the CBS Early Show on Tuesday Bachmann told Erica Hill and Chris Wragge that she is concerned about Trump's objectivity, because "he said he's already leaning towards a candidate."
The planned debate is being cosponsored by Newsmax and is scheduled to be aired on the Ion cable channel.