BETHLEHEM, N.H. -- Mitt Romney is telling The Associated Press that he won't agree to debate Newt Gingrich one on one.
The former Massachusetts governor says in an AP interview that he's not declining his rival's debate challenge because he's afraid to square off against Gingrich, as the former House speaker has implied. Rather, Romney says he doesn't want to define the contest as a "two-man race." And he says that debating Gingrich alone would be disrespectful to other candidates.
Romney also is continuing to distance himself from the Washington standoff over the payroll tax-cut extension. He suggests it's not the place of presidential candidates to weigh in. And he says that doing so would simply complicate the situation -- not help it, making an implied reference to John McCain shutting down his campaign in fall 2008 during the Wall Street bailout crisis.