Yesterday, Sen. Willard "Mitt" Romney (R-UT) announced that he will retire on Jan. 3, 2025, and will thus not run for reelection. He said he would be in his mid-eighties at the end of a new term and it was time for new leadership. He also noted that neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump were willing to tackle big issues like climate change and debt. Actually, though, that's not true. Biden's Inflation Reduction Act provided hundreds of billions of dollars to fight climate change. And Trump's 2017 Tax-Cut Act definitely addressed the debt: It increased it enormously. Maybe if Romney had voted the way he is talking now and badgered Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to join him, Biden's original plan to attack climate change would have passed the Senate, even without any help from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ).
Romney would have won reelection easily, but maybe he got tired of being a voice in the wilderness. Or maybe he took a look at Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and thought: "Gee, this can happen to members of both parties. I want to go with my boots on and my brain functioning." He suggested that two other geezers, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, should join him on the way out the door. He did make a distinction between them, though: He said Trump is unwilling to lead and Biden is unable to lead. Of course, if Romney had often voted with the Democrats when they held the House, it might have been possible for Biden to lead. Romney also implored donors to unite around a candidate to oppose Trump. All the not-Trump candidates agree entirely that there should be a single not-Trump candidate, namely himself or herself.
Romney is a traditional conservative and admitted that the 2023 GOP is not like the 2012 GOP that nominated him to be president. He said his wing of the Party is now "very, very small" in comparison with the Trump wing. However, he is fudging the truth here—badly. In a Romney biography by McKay Coppins due out next month, Romney is said to quote his Senate colleagues by name about how they really feel about Trump vs. what they say in public. In other words, there are actually plenty of traditional conservative Republicans in the Senate. They are just all hiding in the Senate cloakroom.
When asked who would win a Biden vs. Trump matchup, Romney said: "If I had to bet, I'd say it could go either way." How's that for a spine? He didn't say how much he would bet, but we bet he'd bet $10,000 (1 betting unit for him).
Romney's decision was unexpected, so potential candidates were not in the starting blocks waiting for the gun to go off. There are plenty of Republicans in Utah probably thinking about a run as you read this. It won't be long until some of them jump in. Evan McMullin seems likely; he runs for just about every high-profile office that presents itself. Most likely the primary will pit Trumpists vs. nonTrumpists in a state that is somewhat lukewarm on Trumpists. The nomination could go either way. Maybe the Democrats will nominate a candidate, maybe they won't. It could also go either way. (V)