The 2012 race has been compared to a reality show, and a debate announced today will show just how true that is.

Donald Trump, host of NBC's "The Apprentice" who teased the idea of running for president himself, will moderate a GOP presidential debate from Des Moines, Iowa on Dec. 27. The event, billed as the final matchup of GOP candidates before the Jan. 3 caucus, is sponsored by Newsmax and ION Television Networks.

The debate will be held at the Hoyt Sherman Theater in Des Moines. All of the candidates have been invited to participate, but the organizers have yet to release a list of who will be there. One candidate, Jon Huntsman, already has declined to participate. The campaign said in a statement that they "have declined to participate in the ‘Presidential Apprentice’ Debate with The Donald. The Republican Party deserves a serious discussion of the issues so voters can choose a leader they trust to defeat President Obama and turn our economy around."

Huntsman will be participating in what is being described as a "Lincoln-Douglas" style debate with Newt Gingrich in New Hampshire later this month.

The Trump-moderated debate will be streamed on Newsmax and shown on ION, which is a successor to the Pax Network that was launched in the late 1990s.

“The Newsmax ION Television 2012 Presidential Debate will offer all the major Republican candidates a forum to reach likely primary voters in all key states,” said Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy. “There have been numerous debates so far, but we believe that the Newsmax ION Television 2012 Presidential Debate will provide a unique opportunity for the concerns of likely primary voters to be voiced on a national stage.”

“All voters will keep an eye on this final debate before the first presidential primary of the 2012 election,” ION CEO Brandon Burgess. “ION’s and Newsmax’s powerful combined audience reach, coupled with the prominence of Donald Trump as moderator, makes this one of the most influential meetings of the candidates to date.”

Update: Even more biting was Huntsman campaign spokesman, who told Business Insider, "Lol. We look forward to watching Mitt and Newt suck-up to The Donald with a big bowl of popcorn."

Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer tweeted, "Trump's idea 2 moderate a debate is absurd. I hope all GOP candidates turn him down. It's a campaign; not a TV show."

 

 

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