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Friday, February 17, 2012 - 4:00am

Ga. Republican Debate Cancelled

The head of Georgia's Republican Party said she will have to work hard to maintain grassroots momentum among voters after most of the GOP presidential field pulled out of a scheduled debate in Atlanta ahead of Super Tuesday.

Both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul on Thursday declined to participate in the Atlanta debate. Newt Gingrich was committed to participating, but Rick Santorum said he was unlikely to attend a debate without all four candidates.

Party Chairwoman Sue Everhart said Georgia Republicans will not be happy with the news the March 1 debate has been cancelled.

She said while Georgia is solidly Republican, the state "barely squeaked through" four years ago to beat then-candidate Barack Obama, and that she was "hoping to do a lot better this time."

Meanwhile, with less than three weeks to go before Georgia's presidential primary, the state's campaign trail is suddenly getting crowded.

Gingrich will spend two days campaigning in the state beginning with a rally in Peachtree City Friday night. The former House speaker represented a suburban Atlanta district for two decades in Congress and holds a lead in the state, according to a recent poll.

Santorum, surging after a trio of wins in recent weeks, will be in Georgia Sunday night when he'll address a rally at First Redeemer Church in Cumming.

With 76 delegates, Georgia is Super Tuesday's biggest prize. Ten states will vote March 6.

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