The Iowa Republican Party has canceled a debate it planned to host in December featuring the GOP’s top slate of White House hopefuls. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is being blamed as he declined to participate in the event, which was scheduled for broadcast on FOX.
"We were looking forward to participating," McCain campaign spokesman Jon Seaton says. "…We were also wondering if Mitt Romney’s lawyers had gotten back to him on whether it was O.K. to protect America." In a previous debate, Romney said if he were president, he would check with lawyers to decide if he needed congressional approval to attack Iran.
The McCain aide suggests Romney is in play-it-safe mode. "This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. In Sioux City not too long ago, John McCain and only one other candidate were the only two to show up for what was going to be a debate on health care and financial security issues," Seaton says. "Once again, Mitt Romney was conspicuously absent even though he was in the state that day."
Gentry Collins, Romney’s Iowa state director, says it’s unfortunate, but the decision to decline the December 4 debate was "part of a scheduling decision." Romney will participate in the December 12 debate sponsored by the Des Moines Register and broadcast on Iowa Public Television. Collins also points out that Romney participated in the Iowa Republican Party’s Straw Poll this past August, while McCain and Rudy Giuliani skipped it.