Appearing on Meet The Press Sunday, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus said it was up to the GOP presidential candidates themselves to decide whether they should participate at a Dec. 27 debate to be moderated by Donald Trump, the real estate developer, reality show star and world-class egotist.
PRIEBUS: It's up to the candidates. I mean, I don't make those decisions. What—the decisions I make are making sure that we have a functional, operational Republican National Committee.
Karl Rove, the big dog among Republican political strategists, disagrees. On Fox News Channel's Fox and Friends Monday morning following a Trump interview on the show, Rove called out Priebus and also accused Trump of helping to trivialize an important part of American democracy.
ROVE: "They're all going to get stuck going to his debate but it's really odd. Here's a guy who is saying 'I'm going to endorse one of you' so that sort of of gives him some leverage over them. So should a guy who's going to endorse be the 'impartial' moderator of a debate.
"More importantly, what the heck are the Republican candidates doing showing up at a debate with a guy who says 'I may run for president next year as an independent.' I think the Republican National chairman ought to step in and say we strongly discourage every candidate from appearing in a debate moderated by somebody who's going to run for president...
"... It doesn't help the country. If you're going to be a candidate, be a candidate. Don't make it contingent upon whether whether your show's renewed or not. If your show's not renewed, you're going to run for president. How trivial is that. How does that trivialize the most important decision that we Americans have, which is who we're going to elect as our president."
The saving grace, according to Rove, is that the debate comes right after the Christmas holiday and is to be carried on the Ion cable network which, Rove said, isn't exactly one of the most viewed cable TV channels.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and Jon Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China, have already declined Trump's invitation. Newt Gingrich, however, the current frontrunner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination has indicated his intention to participate in the Trump debate.