Jon Huntsman declared on Fox News this morning that he “was not going to kiss his ring and I’m not going to kiss any other part of his anatomy.” He was talking about Donald Trump, who on Friday announced that he would moderate a Dec. 27 debate in Des Moines, a prospect that seems to be making Huntsman and Ron Paul wary of furthering a transformation of the GOP race into reality TV politics.

“This is exactly what is wrong with politics,” Huntsman said. “It’s show business over substance. If he had any courage at all, he would be running for president of the United States of America as opposed to manipulating the process from the outside.”

Most of the rest of the GOP field has treated Trump with reverence, including front-runner Newt Gingrich, so far the only candidate to have accepted the debate invitation. Huntsman has little to lose in taking on the Donald, as he’s staking his candidacy on winning over New Hampshire voters not with retail politics, as well as the image that he is the serious candidate in a field of contenders who too often resort to theatrics. With just weeks left before voting begins, Huntsman also needs all the attention that he can get.

Of course, Trump is not going to wilt from the criticism that he’s not a serious moderator, just as he slammed critics who claimed he never was serious about pondering a bid for the presidency. He called Huntsman and Paul “joke candidates” and, taking a cue from Gingrich, is being more combative with the media. By the way, Trump and Gingrich met this morning and showered each other with praise.

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