There may only be two candidates, but plans for a debate moderated by Donald Trump are "moving full steam ahead," the organizers said Friday.
Only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum accepted the invitation from conservative media group Newsmax to attend the Dec. 27 forum in Iowa, broadcast on Ion Television.
Some other candidates, in declining, cited the possibility that Trump might make a third-party run for president, an option Trump said Friday he's not prepared to give up.
Asked by Fox Business Network's Don Imus on Friday whether he might back out of his role managing the Q&A, Trump said: "I'll have to see."
"They want me to drop my status as a person to run as an independent. And honestly, I don't think I'm going to do that. I'm not going to drop it," he said.
But Steve Coz, Newsmax's editorial director, said in an interview that the hosts were "absolutely not" considering dropping Trump from the event.
"We just had a full production meeting this morning. We're moving full steam ahead," he said.
Coz said he was "disappointed" that other candidates backed out.
"It's because they're afraid of Trump because he's so tough and so smart," he said, admitting he is not a "typical moderator." "The fact that they're so fearful of Donald Trump that they don't come is ludicrous. How can you be running for president and afraid of Donald Trump?"
Most of the candidates are participating in a debate this Saturday hosted by ABC News, the Iowa Republican Party and the Des Moines Register. Another meeting is on tap for Dec. 15 on Fox News Channel.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times