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Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday said it "would be nuts" for the Republican National Committee (RNC) to block GOP candidates from attending debates run by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).
The Utah Republican told Insider that barring Republicans from debates would prevent voters from hearing candidates "duke it out."
"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," he said.
Romney's comments came hours after RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel alerted the CPD that the committee plans to require that GOP candidates do not take part in the commission's debates going forward.
Romney, who is McDaniel's uncle, was the Republican nominee for president in 2012 and took part in three debates held by the CPD against then-President Barack Obama. Romney ultimately lost the election in a 332 to 206 electoral vote.
McDaniel, in a letter to CPD Co-Chairs Frank Fahrenkopf and Kenneth Wollack, said Republican voters "have lost trust" in the commission, noting that the RNC has already recommended a number of reforms for the debate process. She said "neither the tone nor substance" of the commission's latest response assured the RNC that the CPD will "meaningfully address" the issues the party has raised.
Fahrenkopf served as RNC chair in the 1980s.
The RNC's concerns include the timing of the first presidential debate, changes to formats and conditions in some cases without notifying candidates and potential conflicts of interest among debate moderators.
McDaniel said the commission's responses to the RNC's demands thus far "seem designed to delay any reform until it is too late to matter for the 2024 election."
The commission responded on Thursday by saying that it "deals directly with candidates for president and vice president who qualify for participation."
McDaniel reflected on her relationship with her Romney in a February 2020 tweet when the Utah Republican voted to convict then-President Trump in his first impeachment. She said "This is not the first time I have disagreed with Mitt, and I imagine it will not be the last."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to the RNC's move on Thursday, telling reporters "I think it's a question best posed to the RNC on what they're so afraid of."