With the majority of the Republican presidential candidates RSVPing "no," Donald Trump's planned televised extravaganza Dec. 27 in Des Moines looks like it's going to be more of an intimate conversation than an actual cattle-call debate.
Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry said they would not show up, joining Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, and Ron Paul, who said it would be "circus-like." Considering some of the moments in the GOP campaign so far (see: Cain, Herman) that's saying a lot.
The Donald, and the dead ferret he wears on his head, will moderate with just two contenders: Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
"Many of my opponents jockeyed to be the first to fly up to New York and use Donald Trump for a photo op and no doubt try and secure an endorsement," Santorum, the former Pennsyvlania senator, said in a statement. "But when Donald wants to moderate a debate - they refuse to attend. That's what's so wrong with politics today - hypocrisy."
Gingrich's spokesman suggested that the rest of the candidates might want to reconsider. "You want to be leader of the free wrold and you can't face quetsions from Donald Trump?" R.C. Hammond said.
The situation could benefit Santorum, who is popular on the right but has been looking for a breakthrough. Santorum will have a one-on-one shot at the front-running Gingrich, a nearly unobstructed chance to make the case that he is the true conservative alternative in the race. Gingrich has baggage, and Santorum is smart, knowledgable and a skilled debater.