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Updated Sep 13, 2023, 2:31pm EDT
politicsNorth America

Mitt Romney says he won’t seek reelection in 2024

Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA)
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The News

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, the 2012 Republican nominee for president and the only member of his party to vote to remove Donald Trump from power twice, will not run for re-election in 2024.

In a video announcing his decision, Romney said he “enjoy[s] my work in the Senate a good deal” and described his special pride in passing a variety of bipartisan bills signed by President Biden, including the 2021 infrastructure law.

But he also noted he would be in his “mid 80s” in his next term, touching on a sensitive issue for both parties that’s roped in President Biden, Donald Trump, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

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“Frankly, it’s time for a new generation of leaders,” Romney said. “They’re the ones that need to make the decision that will shape the world they will be living in.”

He went on to criticize both Biden and Trump, saying Biden “under-invests in the military “ and Trump “under-investments in our alliances”; Biden offers “feelgood solutions” on climate that don’t work while Trump wrongly calls global warming a “hoax”; and that neither will address the national debt by putting changes to entitlements on the table.

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Benjy and David's View

Romney is one of the most significant politicians of the 21st century and occupies a unique role in the Senate that makes his exit especially glaring.

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“I’ll miss him,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, according to NBC News’ Frank Thorp.

While he’s had an illustrious political and business career in the public eye, his more recent chapters were often defined by his relationship with Trump — and his decision not to run will no doubt be seen through this lens. The former president responded in all-caps to his retirement on Truth Social: “FANTASTIC NEWS FOR AMERICA.”

Romney accepted Trump’s endorsement in person during his 2012 campaign, drawing criticism after Trump’s “birther” campaign against then-President Obama, then became a persistent Trump critic in 2016 and led an unsuccessful late attempt to coordinate GOP efforts to defeat his nomination. After Trump’s upset victory in the general election, Romney had dinner with him and was considered a potential Secretary of State.

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He re-entered electoral politics in 2018 when Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch retired. Romney was the immediate frontrunner for the seat, in a state where Trump had badly under-performed other Republican candidates. But he faced skepticism from a growing MAGA wing of the party, and was booed and heckled at a convention where he got just 49% of delegates’ votes.

He won the nomination anyway, defeating a conservative state legislator by 43 points — and even got Trump’s endorsement. But in the Senate, Romney became the only Republican to vote for conviction in both of Trump’s impeachment trials.

“My vote will likely be in the minority in the Senate,” Romney said after his first conviction vote, “[but] I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability believing that my country expected it of me.”

His relationship with Utah Republicans never recovered. Romney remained a Republican in good standing in the Senate, but refused to placate the MAGA movement that continued to dominate primaries through the midterms. He pointedly did not endorse his own state colleague, pro-Trump Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, against an independent, Evan McMullin, who highlighted January 6th in his campaign.

In July, state House Speaker Brad Wilson launched a Senate exploratory committee promising to be a “bold, proven, and conservative fighter to represent us and our values.” In August, a majority of Republican state legislators in Salt Lake City endorsed him. Romney’s approval rating from GOP voters wavered between 40% and 54%, but a special House primary last month served as a bellwether on the party’s mood — Becky Edwards, a former state legislator who’d refused to support Trump, got just a third of the vote in a three-way race against MAGA candidates. A poll released last month found Romney with just 30% of the vote in a race against all possible GOP challengers.

In an interview with the Washington Post’s Dan Balz released after news of his retirement, Romney indicated he was not done quarterbacking efforts to prevent another Trump presidency. He said he was “continuously” lobbying Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va. not to run a third party campaign with the group No Labels for fear of splitting the anti-Trump vote in a general election.

As for stopping Trump in the primaries, Romney sounded resigned to his nomination and noted that even the top-polling Trump alternatives like Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy had adopted his political style.

“It’s pretty clear that the party is inclined to a populist demagogue message,” he said.

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Notable

  • The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins has a biography of Romney coming out next month. In an excerpt published today, he quotes a text message from Romney to Mitch McConnell ahead of January 6th: “There are calls to burn down your home, Mitch; to smuggle guns into DC, and to storm the Capitol. I hope that sufficient security plans are in place, but I am concerned that the instigator—the President—is the one who commands the reinforcements the DC and Capitol police might require.” McConnell, Coppins writes, never responded.
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