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Sen. Mitt Romney won’t seek reelection

It’s time for a new generation of leaders to step up, he says

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney has criticized President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump  on a number of issues.
Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney has criticized President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump on a number of issues. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the Republican nominee for president in 2012 who has found himself increasingly out of step with the party in the Donald Trump era, announced Wednesday that he will not seek a second term in 2024.

In a video message to the residents of Utah posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Romney was critical of both Trump and President Joe Biden, saying both men had failed to address the nation’s most pressing problems.

“We face critical challenges: mounting national debt, climate change and the ambitious authoritarians of Russia and China,” Romney said in the video. “Neither President Biden nor former President Trump are leading their party to confront those issues. On deficits and debt, both men refuse to address entitlements even though they know that this represent two-thirds of federal spending.”

Romney, 76, noted that he would be in his mid-80s at the end of another term. Unlike other octogenarians in Congress who have opted to remain, Romney said it was time for a new generation of leaders to step up. He said he intends to speak on college campuses to encourage young people to vote and run for office.

“They’re the ones that need to make the decisions that will shape the world they will be living in,” he said.

While age is clearly a major factor in Romney’s decision to retire, he noted that he doesn’t have the seniority of other older senators who have faced questions in recent months about their health.

“Take Mitch McConnell. He’s the leader of the Republican caucus. What he’s able to do at his age is really extraordinary,” he said. “But he’s in a position to make a real difference, at his age, which, you know, if I were majority leader of the Senate, I might reach a different decision, too. But I’m not.”

Speaking to reporters in his Senate office on Wednesday, Romney said he had an “embarrassment of riches” as a first-term senator when he worked with a bipartisan “gang” to pass several bills, including a COVID relief package, an infrastructure package and a measure to close loopholes in the electoral vote counting process, among others.

“We got a lot done, which was a lot of fun. That’s kind of unusual and looking forward I think it’s going to be more challenging for something like that to occur again,” he said.

He takes both Biden and Trump to task for failing to adequately address climate change. “Donald Trump calls global warming a hoax and President Biden offers feel-good solutions that make no difference to the global climate,” he said.

Russia and China are rising threats that Trump and Biden have not adequately grappled with, he said. “Political motivations too often impede the solutions that these challenges demand. The next generation of leaders must take America to the next stage of global leadership,” he said.

A former Massachusetts governor, business executive and onetime standard-bearer of the Republican establishment, Romney voted in the majority on major bipartisan legislation that moved in the Biden  administration. He supported the 2022 law bolstering semiconductor production in an effort to counter China, and a year earlier he was among a group of nearly two dozen senators who reached a deal with the administration on a sweeping $550 billion transportation and infrastructure law.

He has national name recognition that comes with being a former Republican presidential nominee, but as a senator he spends significant time focused on issues of interest to Utah, such as the declining water level in the Great Salt Lake.

Romney has tangled publicly with Trump on a number of occasions as one of the staunchest Republican critics of the 45th president. He is the only member of his party to have voted to convict Trump twice on impeachment charges brought by the Democratic majority in the House at the time. 

His first vote to convict Trump came about after the former president allegedly tied military aid to Ukraine to a request that the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, perform a political favor by investigating Biden’s son Hunter.

Romney voted to convict Trump a second time in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. Trump’s second impeachment trial was over the former president’s alleged incitement of a crowd of his supporters during a rally at the Ellipse before they marched to the Capitol and stormed the building in an attempt to interfere with the counting of states’ official electoral votes.

Romney said he didn’t plan to endorse anyone to fill his Senate seat after his term ends. He said he was “very pleased” to see a recent poll that showed him in a strong position electorally and that he didn’t “have any question in my mind that I would have won if I had run again.”

“I hope that we get a very strong contender and that it’s someone who’s a little younger than me,” he said of his potential successor.

Brad Wilson, the speaker of the Utah state House who launched an exploratory campaign for Senate, said to “stay tuned” in a Wednesday statement following Romney’s announcement.

“We are at a crossroads, and it’s never been more important to elect a strong conservative fighter to the U.S. Senate,” he said. “The stakes are too high, and we need a leader with the guts to stand up and get things done for the people of this state.”

Mary Ellen McIntire contributed.

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