Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney announced on Wednesday that he will not run for re-election, bringing an end to his two-decade-long political career, which included a 2012 presidential run as the Republican nominee and a term as the governor of Massachusetts.
The 76-year-old Romney stated that the country needs new leaders from the younger generation to step up and make decisions that will shape American politics in the coming century. He suggested that it would be better for America if two leading contenders from his party, Democratic President Joe Biden and former Republican President Donald Trump, step aside for the 2024 presidential race. Biden is 80 years old, and Trump is 77.
“At the time we live in, it demands that the next generation comes forward, expresses their point of view, and makes decisions that will shape American politics in the coming century,” Romney said at a press conference in the Capitol. He added that he is not the right person “to make decisions for tomorrow” like a Baby Boomer.
After leaving the Senate, his plan is to focus more on encouraging young people to vote and engage in the political process. Romney, who also ran for president as the GOP nominee in 2012 for the White House, conducted a nationwide campaign as the former governor of Massachusetts. However, with the rise of Trump’s populist appeal within the party, Romney found himself on the outside of the Republican establishment, having been one of the few GOP members of Congress who voted to convict Trump in both of his impeachment trials.
Romney stated at the press conference that he is from the “thinking wing” of the Republican Party and believes it will endure. He said, “My branch of the party talks about the policies and the issues that will change the lives of the American people. The Trump wing of the party talks about anger and grievances and re-litigating 2020.”
Romney also mentioned that he spoke with Biden on Wednesday, and the President wished him well.
He becomes the sixth current Senator who plans to retire at the end of their term in 2025, joining Indiana Republican Mike Braun and Delaware Democrat Tom Carper, Maryland’s Ben Cardin, California’s Dianne Feinstein, and Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement praising Romney, noting his extensive experience in the chamber and stating that his deep faith and commitment have inspired his colleagues.
“The United States Senate is known for attracting and producing talented and accomplished public servants. While we may never see eye to eye on every issue, it was clear to me from the beginning that Mitt Romney came to the Senate to make a difference,” McConnell said.
His departure creates a wide-open competition in a state that heavily supports Republicans, and it is hoped it will draw a crowded field of contenders.
Brad Wilson, the president of the Utah House, expressed interest in Romney’s seat earlier this year, launching an exploratory committee in April while saying the state needs a “conservative warrior” who represents its values, rather than a “career politician.”
Wilson released a statement on Wednesday thanking Romney for his service and wishing him well. “I have been inspired and encouraged by the record-breaking fundraising, grassroots support, and unprecedented endorsements that we have received so far,” Wilson said. “Stay tuned.”
Romney easily won his Senate seat in 2018, but after emerging as one of the most prominent members of his party to break with Trump, he faced more resistance from his own party than any other time in his career. He became the first senator to vote to convict a president of his own party in an impeachment trial in American history in 2020. Romney was the only Republican to vote to convict Trump in both of his impeachment trials.
Just a few months after voting in the second impeachment trial, Romney was censured by a meeting of the Utah Republican Party’s most active members, and an effort to censure him failed. Party members had used the phrase “Mitt Romney Republican” to criticize his opponents during last year’s mid-term elections.
Nevertheless, Romney remains widely popular in Utah, where he has long hosted a faction of the party that embraces a brand of conservatism that is wary of Trump’s style of politics, characterized as divisive and ethically questionable.
The state is home to the Lincoln Project, a Trump-resistant Republican project; Never Trump Republican Evan McMullin, who launched a long-shot campaign for president in 2016; and GOP Governor Spencer Cox, who has criticized Trump and is also preparing for a 2024 run.
The majority of the state’s population are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Originating from religious persecution and arriving with pioneer missionaries, this belief reached the western states and spread worldwide with the mission efforts of missionaries, leaving a legacy that encourages church members to embrace immigrants and refugees.
Among the prominent members, one has been a popular figure in the state for two decades, Brigham Young University graduate and a leading figure in the faith, Romney. He gained prominence during the scandal-ridden 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, shedding light on his integrity, turning it into a global success story for Salt Lake City.
Romney served as the Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. During his tenure, he signed a healthcare law with features similar to the 2010 federal healthcare law signed by President Barack Obama, which made him a target for conservatives. In the 2012 White House election, he ran for president.
During his presidential campaign, Romney had to struggle to break the perception that he was out of touch with regular Americans. His secretly recorded comments in a fundraising program made it clear that he wasn’t concerned about winning the votes of the “47% of Americans” who “believe they are victims” and “pay no income tax.”
After his loss in the presidential race, he moved back to Utah.
In 2016, he delivered a scathing speech in Utah, condemning Trump, who was then the GOP presidential candidate, as “dishonest” and “unfit” for the White House.
After Trump’s victory, Romney dined with him as he was considered a likely choice for Secretary of State. Instead, Trump chose Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil.
During his 2018 Senate campaign in Utah, Romney accepted Trump’s endorsement, but he also pledged in an op-ed that year that he would speak out “when the President says or does something divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest, or destructive to democratic institutions.”
In 2020, Romney protested against police brutality with minorities in Washington and posted an image of his participation under the title “Black Lives Matter,” a rare statement for a member of his party.
On January 6, 2021, as Trump supporters were storming the Capitol to prevent Biden from becoming president, Romney came face to face with rioters. A Capitol Police officer instructed him to turn back, prompting Romney to run for safety.
Trump praised Romney’s retirement, saying the senator “worked hard with a particular flair for special interests.”
Trump wrote on his social media site, “America, Utah, and the Republican Party have some good news. There was going to be a big, splashy fight against him, but not anymore. Everybody wins. Great to have him on board!”