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The real estate mogul announced Tuesday that he was stepping back in order to preserve the option of running for president in case he is not satisfied that the eventual Republican nominee can defeat President Obama. The conservative website Newsmax was to host the debate Dec. 27.

But the debate has been in jeopardy ever since Mitt Romney signaled that he would not participate. Other candidates bowed out. Only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum agreed to take part.

Many Republican strategists warned that a presidential debate moderated by Mr. Trump, star of “Celebrity Apprentice,” would create a circuslike atmosphere that might diminish the candidates vying to challenge Mr. Obama.

YOUTUBE

Perry’s ‘Strong’ ad goes viral, sparks parodies

NEW YORK — Maybe Rick Perry should have worn a different jacket.

The Republican presidential hopeful’s new campaign ad, “Strong,” has become a viral video since it was released last week - but not necessarily for the reasons he might have hoped.

By Monday, the ad had registered nearly 650,000 “dislikes” on YouTube, compared with barely more than 20,000 “likes.”

It also has sparked nearly 700 reply videos, including some mercilessly funny parodies that feature people wearing the same kind of jacket Mr. Perry wears. A lot of chatter also is about how Mr. Perry looks like a gay cowboy from the movie “Brokeback Mountain.”

In the ad, Mr. Perry suggests that President Obama is waging a “war on religion” while allowing gays to serve openly in the military. Officials say the video has drawn some 6 million views on YouTube.

GEORGIA

Gingrich asks supporters to refrain from attacks

ATLANTA — Newt Gingrich is urging supporters and staff to refrain from attacks on his Republican presidential rivals.

Mr. Gingrich’s campaign released a letter Tuesday in which he pledges to run a positive campaign free of negative advertising. But the former House speaker also said he reserves the right to respond when his record has been distorted.

As an example, he noted a “frank exchange” with rival Mitt Romney during last weekend’s debate, when the two sparred over their private-sector records.

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