(CNN) – Texas Gov. Rick Perry will not participate in a debate moderated by real estate mogul Donald Trump and hosted by NewsMax, his campaign announced Thursday.
Perry's Communications Director Ray Sullivan said they "respectfully declined the invitation for the December 27th debate" citing Perry's "traditional retail campaigning in the days and weeks leading up to the Iowa caucus" as top priority for the longest-running Texas governor's presidential campaign.
Perry is one of four current presidential candidates that have visited with Trump, ostensibly seeking an endorsement from the businessman who made waves while flirting with a bid for the 2012 Republican nomination for president himself.
Trump has also met with GOP contenders including Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Trump told CNN's Piers Morgan Wednesday, "I know a lot of the moderators and some are wonderful, and some aren't, but I know the issues better than the moderators" and touted ratings of his reality show as an additional incentive to participate.
Although the debate was also endorsed by 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, so far former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Gingrich are the only candidates who have agreed to attend. Perry now joins former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and Romney, all of whom previously declined to participate.
Bachmann's campaign announced later on Thursday that she would be skipping the debate, as well.
And Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus took issue with Trump's role as moderator earlier in the day.
"I think that having a successful businessman serving as a moderator has a lot of value but the issue here is whether the moderator should be a person who is still batting around the idea of running as an independent," Priebus asserted.
Because his role as Republican National Committee chairman requires him to raise questions about the debate moderated by businessman Donald Trump, Priebus said, "I think it would be malpractice for me as an RNC chairman not to believe that's an issue."
Allowing that "candidates can do whatever they want to do," Priebus asserted his "concern of a moderator who is talking of running as an independent still being a moderator of a debate" in an interview on Fox News.
"I would have an issue with that and I would understand candidates who say, 'Look, I don't know if I want to avail myself where the moderator might be… still talking about potentially running as an independent candidate,'" Priebus said.
"I think that's a problem," he asserted.