Ron Paul’s talons were out over the weekend, slamming the decision to let billionaire mogul Donald Trump moderate the Newsmax debate in Iowa.

Trump’s presence would create an “unwanted circus-like atmosphere,” Paul said in a biting press release that announced his intention to skip the December 27 debate. “The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the Presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity,” Paul said in the statement. 

Paul also appeared on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday where he called Trump’s new role as Republican kingmaker into question. “I don’t quite understand it,” Paul said, according to the Daily Caller. “I don’t understand the marching to his office. I mean I didn’t know that he had an ability to lay on hands, you know, and anoint people.”

Trump fired back at Paul on Fox and Friends Monday morning. “He’s cutesy, he’s got some nice little slogans, but he’s not going anywhere,” Trump said. 

At the Christian Science Monitor’s The Vote blog, Peter Grier found Trump’s invitation to host to be the natural progression of things in the current political climate. “Well, given that many of the debates this cycle have featured production values just short of a reality show, the fact that an actual reality show star will host a GOP confab should not be that surprising. The leap from Wolf Blitzer to Donald Trump may be shorter than we journalists suspect,” Grier wrote. 

Karl Rove fell squarely on Paul’s side of this issue and politely termed the decision to let Trump moderate “really odd,” according to the Washington Post’s Election 2012 blogger Nia-Malika Henderson. And Rove didn’t stop there: “What the heck are the Republican candidates doing showing up at a debate with a guy who says I may run for president next year as an independent,” he said over the weekend on Fox and Friends. Rove went so far as to suggest the RNC chair step up and discourage candidates from attending.

Newt Gingrich, however, spent almost an hour at Trump Tower with the Donald trying to smooth things over, Politico reported. “I’m actually very surprised that one of my friends would have said that,” Gingrich told Politico. “Donald Trump is a great showman. He’s also a great businessman . . . I think that we have to be open to new ways of doing things and new ways of approaching things.”