What did I tell you just this morning.  Mitt Romney needs to take on Newt face-to-face, mano a mano, to demonstrate that Mitt is not Tim Pawlenty, someone who can dish it out through surrogates or in television interviews, but not in person.

This is a sign that Romney doesn’t want to do it, at least not one on one, Romney Declines Lincoln-Douglas Debate Against Gingrich:

With the Republican presidential primary appearing to have narrowed into a two-man contest, Human Events and Red State moved quickly to lock down a date for a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

The two organizations went so far this past Monday as to firm up the Annenberg Theater at the Newseum in Washington as the venue on Dec. 19 after another debate originally scheduled that day was canceled. For its part, the Newseum was excited to host the pre-primary forum.

There was just one problem. While Gingrich was ready to take his place on the stage, the Romney campaign politely declined in a series of mostly e-mail exchanges.

As Joe Guerriero, publisher of Human Events and Red State, put it to RCP: “Newt was all over it, and the Romney camp basically said no. It wasn’t a harsh no, but it was a no.”

Two highly influential publications offer the two leading contenders a chance to have a wide ranging debate on the issues, and to confront each other, and one takes the opportunity while the other one declines.

I understand why Romney declines.  But it’s just another step on the road to Pawlentyville.

Update:  This Is A Genius Move By Gingrich

Newt  Gingrich has invited Jon Huntsman to engage in another long Lincoln-Douglas style debate  on December 12, in Windham New Hampshire. Newt did a similar debate with Herman Cain earlier this year. Huntsman accepted.

It’s a genius move for Gingrich, and a good one by Huntsman. Romney has declined an invitation to engage Gingrich in this kind of debate.

Newt Gingrich gets to elevate Huntsman in New Hampshire, which could hurt Mitt  Romney.

Gingrich believes that he can beat anyone in a debate and will look smarter  than any of his opponents. The more air-time he gets, the better for  him.

Mitt Romney looks like a chicken for not accepting a debate challenge with his chief rival.