PEACHTREE CITY, Ga. — Newt Gingrich is hammering his Republican presidential rivals for backing out of a nationally televised debate.

CNN was forced to cancel the debate, scheduled to take place in Atlanta on March 1, after Mitt Romney declined to participate. Rick Santorum quickly followed suit.

Gingrich said Friday that he is disappointed in his opponents' decision and that if they are afraid to debate him, then they can't debate President Barack Obama.

Gingrich made his remarks a rally in the Georgia congressional district he represented for 20 years.

Georgia is one of 10 states holding nominating contests on Super Tuesday, March 6. He hopes to win the state as part of a strategy to get his struggling campaign back on track.