Asking the 2024 GOP presidential nominee to join the Republican National Committee’s boycott of debates run by the Commission on Presidential Debates ”would be nuts,” according to Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.
”The American people want to see candidates for president debating issues of consequence to them, and it provides a service to the country and to the people, to hear the prospective candidates of the two major parties duke it out,” Romney told Business Insider.
Romney’s remark comes as his niece Ronna Romney McDaniel, chair of the RNC, told the CPD in a letter that the party is going to impose a stipulation that its nominee must agree not to participate in CPD-sponsored debates.
That election cycle featured just one presidential debate between Trump, the incumbent, and then-candidate Joe Biden. Trump was rejected from attending a second debate after he was hospitalized with COVID-19, and the Biden campaign declined to work with the Trump campaign to reschedule or hold a third debate.
The Trump campaign was rejected by the CPD and the Biden campaign in its request for four debates in 2020.
Analysts historically give a challenger an edge in a first debate and the incumbent president an advantage in latter-stage debates.
”For years, the Commission on Presidential Debates has shown bias against Republicans,” McDaniel tweeted Thursday. ”Since they continue to stonewall common sense reforms, the RNC is leveling the playing field to make debates fair for future nominees.”
McDaniel’s position is that GOP candidates would not be barred from any debates, but they would have to agree not to participate in any controlled by CPD.
Few conservative media outlets have hosted Trump’s presidential debates. In 2016 and 2020, the debate moderators were former Fox News hosts Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly. Neither is still with Fox News, and both had been openly critical of then-President Trump.
Republican voters ”have lost trust” in the CPD, McDaniel wrote to CPD co-chairs Frank Fahrenkopf and Kenneth Wollack.
The CPD responded to McDaniel and the RNC by saying it ”deals directly with candidates for president and vice president who qualify for participation,” The Hill reported.
Romney, himself critical of Trump, was the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, losing to incumbent President Barack Obama in an Electoral College landslide (332-206).
Romney once voted to impeach Trump, putting the RNC chairwoman in an awkward position.
”This is not the first time I have disagreed with Mitt, and I imagine it will not be the last,” McDaniel said then.
In October 2020, former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., the 1996 GOP presidential nominee who died last month, tweeted that the CPD was biased because none of its members supported Trump.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki commented on the potential boycott of CPD-run debates, saying, ”I think it’s a question best posed to the RNC on what they’re so afraid of.”
The lack of fairness, McDaniel said in her tweet.