Romney on Trump's 2024 bid: 'Absolutely not'

Sen. Mitt Romney, seen against a backdrop of wood paneling, looks skeptical.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 16. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Thursday that he would “absolutely not” support former President Donald Trump in his 2024 White House bid, even if Trump wins the Republican nomination.

Speaking at a Washington Post forum on climate change and the prospects for bipartisan cooperation that was broadcast on C-SPAN2, Romney was asked by the Post’s Leigh Ann Caldwell if he would support Trump in the 2024 presidential election.

“Absolutely not,” Romney said, triggering a smattering of applause from the live audience in Washington, D.C.

“Look, I voted to remove him from office twice,” Romney said to laughter, in reference to his votes to convict the former president in his impeachment trials.

“And it’s not just because he loses,” Romney said of the midterm election defeats for many high-profile candidates endorsed by Trump. “That’s my reason that I offer to other people who are big fans of his. But it’s also [that] he’s simply not a person who should have the reins of the government of the United States.”

Donald Trump, in navy suit and red tie, emphasizes his point at the microphone, with an American flag behind him.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., on Nov. 15. (Alon Skuy/AFP via Getty Images)

Romney added that Robert Gates, who served as secretary of defense and secretary of state, with appointments under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has said Trump lacks a key attribute that every president needs: the humility to take advice.

In January 2020, Romney was the only Republican senator to join Democrats in voting to convict Trump for abuse of power, the first article in his first impeachment trial, after Trump withheld congressionally approved aid to Ukraine. Trump was trying to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into opening an investigation into Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden, whose presidential campaign Trump was hoping to undermine. In January 2021, during Trump’s second impeachment trial, Romney was one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict the outgoing president for “incitement of insurrection” for his actions leading up to the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 of that year.

Given those votes and his long history of speaking out against Trump, Romney’s latest comments are not surprising. The Utah senator, however, was also the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee, and he comes from a prominent Republican family. His father, George, was the governor of Michigan and a Cabinet secretary under President Richard Nixon. His niece Ronna McDaniel is the Trump-aligned chair of the Republican National Committee. Other pillars of the GOP establishment — former President George W. Bush, for example — have declined to endorse Trump but have also shied away from explicitly criticizing him in public.

At a dimly lit restaurant table with a white linen tablecloth, President-elect Donald Trump, with soup bowl, beams for the camera as Mitt Romney looks on, smiling as he prepares to eat some blackened scallops.
President-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney dine at the New York restaurant Jean Georges in November 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Trump and Romney traded blows during the 2016 presidential campaign, but after Trump won, Romney congratulated him on his victory and paid him a visit, and Trump reportedly considered appointing him secretary of state. In 2018, Trump endorsed Romney's candidacy for Senate — an endorsement Romney welcomed.

Before being asked about the 2024 campaign, Romney was asked whether the Republican Party "has lost its way."

“Have some people lost their way? Yes. Are others filled with a vision for the future? Absolutely,” Romney replied. Unlike some Trump critics, he was also frank about the hold Trump has on the party and the slim odds of beating him in the primary.

“I think we’ve got, I don’t know, 12 people or more that would like to be president, that are thinking of running in 2024,” Romney continued. “If President Trump continues in his campaign, I’m not sure any one of them can make it through and beat him. He’s got such a strong base of, I don’t know, 30 or 40% of the Republican voters, or maybe more, it’s going to be hard to knock him off as our nominee. If he becomes our nominee, I think he loses again.”

A supporter of U.S President Donald Trump holds a sign saying: Trump Won, Landslide.
A supporter of then-President Donald Trump in Philadelphia on Nov. 7, 2020, after Joe Biden's victory in the presidential election was announced. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Romney said Trump’s persistent claim, against all evidence, that the 2020 election was stolen from him is unappealing to swing voters. On Wednesday, he said the defeat of the Trump-backed Senate candidate Herschel Walker in Georgia’s runoff election Tuesday has proved to be only the latest in a string of defeats for the party for which Trump is responsible.

“If you get endorsed by him in the primary, you’re likely to win,” Romney told reporters in the Capitol. “If you get endorsed by him in the general, you’re likely to lose. So for someone who actually wants to win an election, getting endorsed by him is the kiss of death.”