Sen. Mitt Romney Says Republicans' Proposed Pull-Out From Presidential Debates 'Would Be Nuts'

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, who is Romney’s niece, informed the Committee on Presidential Debates that her party may prohibit its candidates from participating in its future debates

Mitt Romney
Sen. Mitt Romney. Photo: Rick Bowmer/AP/Shutterstock

The Republican Party has informed the Committee on Presidential Debates that the party and its voters have "lost faith" in the organization that has coordinated debates for more than 30 years.

Ronna McDaniel, who chairs the Republican National Committee, wrote in letter Thursday to the committee expressing her party's concerns and informing the CPD that it plans to ban its future nominees from debates sponsored by the nonprofit group, formed in 1987 to ensure nonpartisan debates among leading candidates are a "permanent part of the electoral process."

In her letter, McDaniel outlines a slew of reforms and says the debate committee "appears intent on stonewalling" those changes, which she believes are necessary to "restore its credibility with the Republican Party as a fair and nonpartisan actor."

She indicated the RNC "will initiate the process of amending" party rules "to prohibit future Republican nominees from participating in CPD-sponsored debates."

McDaniel's uncle, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney and the party's 2012 presidential nominee, said it "would be nuts" for the RNC to pull its candidates from the debates sponsored by the CPD.

"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 Insider Thursday.

Discussions between Republicans and the debates committee began in June, according to McDaniel, who listed what she called "failures" in her letter.

Ronna McDaniel
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They include holding the first debate after early voting has begun, changing previously agreed-upon formats and conditions "without even notifying the candidates" in some cases, selecting a moderator who worked for a Democrat nominee and board members "publicly disparaging" a GOP candidate.

"We take the R.N.C.'s observations and suggestions seriously and, as we have said previously, we will give them careful consideration," the commission told the RNC in a December letter, according to The New York Times. "In furtherance of our position as a nonpartisan, neutral body, which neither favors nor disfavors any party or candidate, we do not negotiate the terms or conditions of our operations with anyone."

McDaniel outlines "much-needed" reforms she says must be made "to have any credibility with the Republican Party and its 74 million voters moving forward."

Donald Trump Covid
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Those include term limits for the committee's board of directors, committing to hold at least one debate before early voting begins, adding a code of conduct for the committee's officers, directors and staff that prohibits partisan activity related to an election and public statements in support or opposition to either party's nominees, "meaningful consequences for violations" of those proposed rules, establishing "transparent criteria for selecting debate moderators that would disqualify individuals from consideration who have apparent conflicts of interest," and regulations for debate moderators on how they interact with candidates and "meaningful penalties for violations."

McDaniel said that "it is too late" for reforms to be implemented in time for the 2024 election.

Ronna McDaniel
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The RNC, she wrote, "cannot simply 'wait and see,' as the CPD seems to suggest, but must act now. To do otherwise would forestall any meaningful reform and conveniently leave the CPD unaccountable for another election cycle."

The RNC will vote on the new rule to prohibit its candidates from participating in the commission's debates at a meeting in Salt Lake City next month, the Times reports. The commission responded to the threat in a statement to the Times, saying it "deals directly with candidates for President and Vice President who qualify for participation," and added that its plans for the 2024 debates "will be based on fairness, neutrality and a firm commitment to help the American public learn about the candidates and the issues."

Updated by
Aaron Parsley

Aaron Parsley has been a part of PEOPLE's digital team for more than 15 years.

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