Texas Gov. Rick Perry has joined fellow GOP presidential contenders Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman in turning down an invitation to participate in a Republican debate moderated by Donald Trump.
The Perry campaign said it "respectfully declined the invitation" in a statement Thursday, citing the need to meet with Iowa voters for some "traditional retail campaigning." The debate, scheduled for Dec. 27, is just six days before the Iowa caucuses.
"Gov. Perry will be in Iowa almost continually, meeting with real voters, doing town hall meetings and events and talking American jobs, faith and overhauling Washington, D.C. to Iowa voters," the statement from Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said.
Perry "has talked to Donald Trump in recent days and respects him and the folks at Newsmax very much," Sullivan added.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum are the only two candidates to confirm they will attend. Santorum said earlier this week he couldn't see how Trump would be "any worse" a debate moderator than other members of the mainstream media.
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has not yet made her plans known.
Perry's announcement came the same day Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said the Trump-moderated debate was "a problem" given the mogul's flirtation with making a presidential bid of his own.
"We appreciate what Mr. Trump has done, but if you’re still talking about potentially running as an independent candidate, I think that’s a problem," Priebus said on Fox News. "I think that would be malpractice for me as an RNC chairman to not believe that that is an issue."
Watch Priebus' remarks below, via Mediaite: