PORTLAND, Ore. – After months of planning, the Oregon Republican Party had to cancel their presidential debate just days before it was scheduled to happen.
The two leading candidates, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, both declined invitations, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting, which was hosting the debate.
Without the front-runners, organizers decided it wasn’t worth holding the debate.
A party spokesman said the campaigns have changed strategies and don’t see the advantage of national debates. He said organizers did their best to make the debate happen, but in the end it wasn’t in the cards.
"It is disappointing," said Oregon Republican Party Chairman Allen Alley. "It's just the campaigns have moved to a different mode where they're going state by state, very tactical about delegates in each of those states."
Only Newt Gingrich had formally accepted the debate invitation, according to OPB.
Debate organizers offered to change the date or move the venue to Chicago ahead of next week’s Illinois primary, but the campaigns didn’t buy it.
Alley said they knew scheduling a debate after Super Tuesday would be "high risk, high reward."
The Republican Party, OPB and co-sponsor the Washington Times have invested large amounts of time organizing the debate, but the Oregon GOP spokesman said the cancellation won’t be a huge financial burden. They had not yet spent money on many of the large costs, such as venues and security.
Alley said the campaigns told him they would make visits to Oregon in May, before our primary.
The debate was set to be broadcast from OPB’s studio on Monday night. It would have been broadcast on public radio and TV stations across the country.