Just five Republican candidates - half the invited field - will take part in Thursday's presidential debate in Baltimore, event organizers said yesterday.
The four leading contenders, Rudolph W. Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, have each said they will not participate in the forum focusing on issues facing minority voters. Their absence has drawn the ire of Tavis Smiley, the talk-show host who is moderating and organizing the debate at Morgan State University; he said the candidates are making a mistake in not reaching out to black voters.
A list of confirmed participants released yesterday also omits Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, a staunch opponent of current immigration policy. Confirmed are Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Alan L. Keyes of Maryland, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, organizers said.
Also yesterday, former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the chairman of GOPAC, a Republican political action committee, said in a statement that he was "hopeful" each missing candidate would "adjust his schedule" to participate.
"African-American voters must not by taken for granted by the Democrats and can't be overlooked or written off by Republicans," Steele said.