Sen. Mitt Romney says the Republican National Committee 'would be nuts' to block GOP candidates from participating in presidential debates

Sen. Mitt Romney says the Republican National Committee 'would be nuts' to block GOP candidates from participating in presidential debates
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah outside the Senate chamber on December 7, 2021.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
  • The RNC is preparing to ban future GOP presidential candidates from participating in debates.
  • Sen. Mitt Romney blasted the plans, telling Insider that it's "nuts."

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah on Thursday blasted the Republican National Committee's plans to prohibit future GOP presidential candidates from participating in debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Romney, the party's 2012 presidential nominee and the uncle of current RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, said the decision would deprive the American people of the opportunity to hear candidates "duke it out."

"Well, that would be nuts," Romney told Insider at the Capitol. "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."

The New York Times first reported earlier Thursday that the RNC is preparing to amend its rules, and Insider obtained a letter from the party to the debate commission's co-chairs, Frank Fahrenkopf and Kenneth Wollack.

The RNC is concerned about the timing of the 2024 presidential debates, changes to debate procedures without prior notification to the parties, the selection of debate moderators who may represent an alleged conflict of interest, and failure to maintain nonpartisanship among the commission's board members, McDaniel wrote in the letter.


The nonpartisan debate commission has existed since 1987 and has sponsored presidential debates dating back to 1988. But Republicans have more recently argued that the commission is biased towards Democrats.

Romney told Insider he wasn't familiar with concerns that the commission isn't fair to Republicans.

The change hasn't taken effect yet, but an RNC pullout could lead to campaigns directly engaging with each other to set up debates or no debates at all, The Times reported.

McDaniel offered a range of proposals for the debate commission, including holding one presidential debate before early voting begins, implementing a code of conduct for the commission's members and staff, and establishing criteria for selecting debate moderators.

"The RNC has a duty to ensure that its future presidential nominees have the opportunity to debate their opponents on a level playing field," McDaniel wrote. "So long as the CPD appears intent on stonewalling the meaningful reforms necessary to restore its credibility with the Republican Party as a fair and nonpartisan actor, the RNC will take every step to ensure that future Republican presidential nominees are given that opportunity elsewhere."


The RNC's proposed rule to require future candidates to sign a pledge not to participate in the debates will be voted on at the committee's meeting in Utah next month, per The Times.

The White House on Thursday suggested the RNC was "afraid" of participating in debates.

"The president has participated in many debates over the course of his career and believes they play a role in allowing the American people to hear from candidates and where they stand," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during Thursday's press briefing. "So I think it's a question best posed to the RNC on what they're so afraid of."