Sen. Willard “Mitt” Romney (R-Utah), facing reelection in 2024, has decided not to run again, but to retire. This announcement by Mitt Romney “opens” his seat and sets up a competitive primary, if not a competitive general election.
Mitt Romney to retire
Sen. Romney announced his intention not to seek reelection yesterday (September 13). He gave his age as his reason, and that is a valid point. (He would be 82 by the time he finished another Senate term in 2031.) But Republican politics in Utah has definitely turned more ideological. Moderates like the late Orrin Hatch are no longer a factor in Utah politics. Utah’s junior Senator, Mike Lee, is a “MAGA Republican.”
Mitt Romney also served as Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. In 2012 he won the Republican Presidential nomination, though some still suspect he cheated Ron Paul out of that honor. He lost to Barack Obama, who was standing for reelection at the time.
Romney used his announcement to lament the decline in power of moderate Republicans in American politics today. Their detractors call them RINOs, or Republicans In Name Only. Ironically, Romney called President Trump a RINO after Trump made a slip of the tongue about “terminating” the Constitution. (Trump was speaking in the context of the irregularities in the Election of 2020.) Romney also voted to convict Trump on his second impeachment, one of seven Republicans to do so. (In the first impeachment trial, Romney split the difference on the two articles, according to CNN.) In July 2022 Mitt Romney, writing in The Atlantic, warned of “irreparable harm” should Trump return to the White House. And in July 2023, he was one of five Senators who threatened to bolt the Republican Party and turn Democrat.
The other four Senators who threatened to bolt the Party were Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John Thune (R-S.D.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and John Cornyn (R-Texas). None of those four are up for reelection next year. Mitt Romney was the only one and has now taken himself out of the running.
It’s pretty clear that the party is inclined to a populist demagogue message.
Which would indicate he feared a “primarying,” and that could be his real reason not to run. He also called for “a new generation” to replace so many elderly politicians, according to The Guardian, CNN, Reuters, and The Washington Examiner. But he also condemned his Republican Senate colleagues for their support of Trump, even saying they don’t believe in the Constitution.
Romney is also the son of Gov. George Romney (R-Mich.), who in 1968 challenged Spiro T. Agnew for the Republican Vice-Presidential nomination. Agnew won easily, but any such vote was a surprise at all.
Mitt Romney also succeeded Orrin Hatch, who died in 2022. Thus he holds the “RINO Seat.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lamented Romney’s decision. But President Donald Trump did not. “Fantastic!” he said on Truth Social when he heard of Romney’s stand-down.
A BIG PRIMARY FIGHT AGAINST HIM WAS IN THE OFFING, BUT NOW THAT WILL NOT BE NECESSARY.
Trump might have been referring to this Deseret News poll, the sample of which said Trump, not Romney, represented their views, 47 percent to 39 percent (among Republicans).
Indeed the Utah primary contest is already shaping up. Possible names that bear mention in multiple outlets include those of:
- State Rep. Brad Wilson, Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives,
- Mayor Trent Skaggs (R-Riverton),
- Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and
- Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah).
Of those four, Mayor Skaggs has definitely announced his plan to run. Speaker Wilson has formed an “exploratory committee,” raised record funds, and has endorsements from more than 60 of his colleagues.
With more than half of Utah voters undecided, the primary is wide-open. But the general election would not be.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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