Mitt Romney, a prominent figure in American politics, made a significant announcement on Wednesday. The 76-year-old former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican nominee for president declared that he will not seek reelection, marking the end of his two-decade-long political career.
Romney emphasized that the current challenges facing the United States require a fresh perspective from a younger generation of leaders. He expressed his belief that both major parties should consider new candidates for their 2024 presidential nominations, highlighting the ages of the current frontrunners – 80-year-old Democratic President Joe Biden and 77-year-old Republican former President Donald Trump.
“The times we’re living in demand that the next generation step up, express their viewpoints, and make decisions that will shape American politics in the coming century,” Romney stated during a news conference held at the Capitol. He acknowledged that his generation, the baby boomers, may not be the best-suited to address the challenges of tomorrow.
Following his departure from the Senate, Romney intends to focus on encouraging greater political involvement and voter engagement among young people.
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Romney’s political journey has been marked by notable shifts. While he campaigned as the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, characterized by his buttoned-up image and background as a private equity executive and former Massachusetts governor, his brand of Republicanism evolved into a more independent stance with the rise of Donald Trump within the party. Romney notably voted to convict Trump in both of his impeachment trials, distinguishing himself as the only GOP member of Congress to do so.
During the news conference, Romney identified himself as belonging to the “wise wing of the Republican Party” and expressed his belief that it will remain a relevant force. He contrasted this with what he referred to as the “Trump wing” of the party, emphasizing their focus on resentments and past elections.
Romney revealed that he had a conversation with President Biden on the day of his announcement, during which the president extended his well-wishes.
Romney becomes the sixth incumbent senator to announce retirement plans, with their terms ending in 2025. Other retirees include Republican Mike Braun of Indiana and Democrats Tom Carper of Delaware, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Dianne Feinstein of California, and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Romney in a statement, recognizing the depth of experience he brought to the Senate and commending his faith and integrity, which served as inspiration to his colleagues.
Romney’s decision creates an open race for his Senate seat in a state that predominantly favors Republicans and is expected to draw a competitive field of candidates.
Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson had expressed interest in Romney’s seat earlier this year, launching an exploratory committee in April. Wilson emphasized the need for a “conservative fighter” who aligns with the state’s values rather than a “professional career politician.”
Despite facing resistance from some within his own party due to his disagreements with Trump, Romney was elected to the Senate with ease in 2018. He made history in 2020 as the first senator from his party to vote to convict a president from their own party in an impeachment trial. Romney was also among the few Republicans to vote for conviction in both of Trump’s impeachment trials, though Trump was ultimately acquitted by the Senate on both occasions.
Romney encountered pushback from the Utah Republican Party following his votes in the second impeachment trial, with some party members attempting to censure him. Nonetheless, Romney remained popular in Utah, a state known for its brand of civil conservatism that sometimes differs from Trump’s approach to politics.
Utah is home to various figures critical of Trump, including the Lincoln Project, Republican Evan McMullin (who launched a 2016 presidential campaign), and GOP Governor Spencer Cox, who has expressed reservations about Trump’s style of politics. Additionally, a majority of Utah’s population belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a faith that has traditionally embraced immigrants and refugees.
Mitt Romney, a prominent member of the church and a Brigham Young University graduate, has enjoyed broad popularity in Utah for decades. He further solidified his standing in the state by successfully overseeing the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, which had faced bribery scandals but became a global showcase under his leadership.
Before his Senate tenure, Romney served as the governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. During that time, he signed a health care law with similarities to the federal health care law signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, the same president who defeated Romney in the 2012 White House election.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Romney grappled with perceptions of being disconnected from everyday Americans, particularly following a secretly recorded comment about not being concerned with winning the votes of the “47% of Americans” who “believe they are victims” and “pay no income tax.”
After his presidential defeat, Romney relocated to Utah.
In 2016, Romney delivered a scathing speech in Utah in which he criticized Donald Trump, then a GOP presidential candidate, as a “phony” and a “fraud” who was unfit for the White House. However, after Trump’s victory, Romney dined with him as the president-elect considered him for the position of secretary of state. Ultimately, Trump chose Rex Tillerson for the role.
Romney accepted Trump’s endorsement during the primary race for his 2018 Senate run but also pledged in an op-ed that year that he would “continue to speak out when the president says or does something which is divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.”
In 2020, Romney participated in a Washington protest against police mistreatment of minorities, publicly supporting the “Black Lives Matter” movement—a rare stance for a member of his party.
On January 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president, Romney found himself near the rioters. A U.S. Capitol Police officer directed him to turn around, prompting Romney to run for safety.
Former President Trump responded to Romney’s retirement announcement by stating that the senator “did not serve with distinction” and celebrated the news as a positive development for America, Utah, and the Republican Party.
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