Posted at 10:12 AM ET, 01/21/2012

Romney to participate in Florida debates

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) said during a visit to campaign headquarters here Saturday morning that he will participate in the debate scheduled for Monday in Tampa.


Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney answers a question as former House speaker Newt Gingrich, left, and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, listen. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
His chief strategist, Stuart Stevens, told reporters Romney would also participate in Thursday’s debate in Jacksonville.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be doing the debate on Monday,” Romney said in response to a reporter’s question as he worked the phones calling voters at his Greenville headquarters. “Yeah, I’m in.”

News of Romney’s planned participation comes as his campaign has been hedging on whether the GOP front-runner will take part in debates with his three remaining rivals — Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).

As of Friday, Romney had not committed to either Monday’s debate in Tampa or Thursday’s in Jacksonville.

Well aware of their candidate’s front-runner status — as well as of the fact that debates are a favorite venue for the Gingrich camp — some of Romney’s advisers have grumbled in recent days about the number of debates this primary season.

Reports The Post’s Jason Horowitz:

“There’s a lot of them,” Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s communications director, said after debate No. 16. “It gets a little tiring.” On Thursday, former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, a Romney supporter, blamed fatigue for Romney’s lackluster performance Monday night, where he inserted enough couches to fill a furniture shop into an answer about whether he’d release his tax returns. “There are too many debates,” said Sununu. “And they allow candidates to stay in if they don’t have the resources as long as they have the price of a ticket to the next debate.”
“Fatigue,” he said, “is crucial.”

Staff writer Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.

By  |  10:12 AM ET, 01/21/2012

 
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