In a surprising move that marks the end of an era, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the former 2012 Republican presidential nominee and a prominent figure known for his dissenting stance within the GOP, announced on Wednesday that he would not seek re-election in 2024. In a video statement, Romney declared his intention to make way for a “new generation of leaders.”
Romney, who made history by breaking ranks with his party when he voted to remove former President Donald J. Trump from office, didn’t mince words. He suggested that Mr. Trump, 77, and President Biden, 80, follow his example and step aside to allow younger candidates to take the helm.
He argued that neither of them was effectively leading their respective parties to address the “critical challenges” facing the nation.
“At the end of another term, I’d be in my mid-80s. Frankly, it’s time for a new generation of leaders,” Romney, 76, stated firmly. “They’re the ones that need to make the decisions that will shape the world they will be living in.”
This announcement marks the culmination of a long-standing divergence between Romney, a genteel and wealthy former governor, and traditional conservative, and the Republican Party, which has shifted toward a more confrontational brand of partisanship in recent years.
Romney didn’t hold back in his assessment of the current state of the Republican Party, acknowledging that it is now largely overshadowed by Donald Trump. He pointed out that the far-right faction of the GOP is less concerned with policy and more focused on “resentment and settling scores and revisiting the 2020 election.”
Elected to the Senate in 2018, Romney has found it challenging to find his place within a party that has shifted significantly to the right. His decision to step down comes just weeks before the release of a biography, “Romney: A Reckoning,” in which he reveals that many of his Republican colleagues privately ridicule and disdain Mr. Trump.
In the upcoming book, Romney recounts private conversations with fellow Republicans, shedding light on their true sentiments about Trump.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky reportedly told Romney that he was “lucky” to be able to voice what they all think but cannot say publicly. This revelation could further deepen the rift within the GOP.
Romney’s dissatisfaction with the Senate is also laid bare in the book, as he describes it as an “old men’s club” filled with performative politics and self-obsessed individuals focused on re-election rather than governing effectively.
He has been part of bipartisan efforts to address major policy issues but has rarely taken a leading role in those efforts.
In his retirement announcement, Romney emphasized that neither President Biden nor Mr. Trump is adequately addressing the nation’s most critical challenges, including climate change, mounting debt, and authoritarian threats from Russia and China.
He even hinted that they were not fit to lead the nation into the future, stating, “It would be a great thing if both President Biden and former President Trump would stand aside.”
Romney’s call comes at a time when there is renewed scrutiny of the age of several prominent elected officials, including Mr. McConnell, 81, whose recent health issues have raised questions about his fitness for office.
However, Romney rejected the suggestion that McConnell should step aside, emphasizing McConnell’s potential to make a real difference at his age.
Romney received a call from President Biden after his announcement, which he described as “very generous and very kind.” Despite stepping away from the Senate, Romney hinted that he might still play a role in the nation’s political discourse, asserting that he is “not retiring from the fight” and intends to finish out his term, which ends in January 2025.
Given Utah’s solid Republican-leaning, Romney’s retirement is unlikely to shift the balance of power on Capitol Hill. His decision to retire follows similar choices made by moderate House Republicans in the previous year, with four House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump opting not to seek re-election.
While Romney expressed pride in his work on gun safety legislation and the Electoral Count Act, he acknowledged that achieving similar accomplishments in the future may be more challenging.
As the release of the upcoming biography draws near, Romney’s colleagues are growing concerned about their private thoughts and conversations regarding Trump becoming public.
Romney’s increasing concern about Trump’s potential nomination as the party’s presidential candidate is evident in his recent opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, where he urged donors and Republican candidates to unite around an alternative to Mr. Trump to prevent him from securing the party’s nomination.