Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate who made a historic break with his party by voting to remove former President Donald J. Trump from office, announced Wednesday that he will not run again not in 2024, saying he wanted to make way for a “new generation of leaders”.
He strongly suggested that Mr. Trump, 77, nor President Biden, 80, should follow his lead and step aside to pave the way for younger candidates, saying neither was leading his party to confront the “critical challenges” facing the nation.
“At the end of another term, I will be around 85 years old. Frankly, it’s time for a new generation of leaders,” Mr. Romney said in a video statement. “They are the ones who must make the decisions that will shape the world they will live in.”
The announcement by Mr. Romney, a distinguished and wealthy former governor and traditional conservative who has for years been out of step with a Republican Party that has shifted sharply to the right and adopted a cruder form of partisanship, was in some ways not surprising.
Elected to the Senate in 2019, Mr. Romney has since occupied a lonely space in a Capitol where the majority of Republicans remain loyal to the former Mr. Trump — or at least refuse to break with him. He joined a collection of bipartisan “gangs” seeking to tackle major policy issues — including infrastructure, gun safety and electoral count law reform — but rarely sought to lead those efforts .
In the video, Mr. Romney said that neither Mr. Biden nor Mr. Trump, the current front-runner for the Republican nomination, were tackling the nation’s most critical challenges, including climate change, authoritarian threats of Russia and China and growing debt.
“Both men refuse to address the issue of entitlements, even though they represent two-thirds of federal spending,” he said. “Donald Trump calls global warming a hoax and President Biden is proposing feel-good solutions that will make no difference to the global climate. On China, President Biden is underinvesting in the military and President Trump is underinvesting in our alliances.
“The next generation of leaders must take America to the next stage of global leadership,” he added.
The statement comes as the age of Mr. Biden and other prominent elected officials, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, 81, the longtime Republican leader whose recent health problems have raised questions about his fitness to retain his position, has come under scrutiny.
Mr. Romney, who describes his political career as a moral mission driven by his Mormon faith, has been marginalized in recent years within a party that has shifted to the right under the sway of Mr. Trump. In the Senate, he never emerged as leader of any faction or committee, even though he was considered a reliable and sensible vote.
He hinted he might still have a role to play in the country’s political discourse, saying: “I’m not walking away from the fight.” He has said he plans to complete his term, which ends in January 2025.
Mr. Romney had recently told people that he planned to make a decision to seek re-election by the end of the year and that he was wondering whether he could still play a productive role in Congress.
His decision to abandon a career in the Senate follows similar decisions made by many moderate House Republicans last year. In the 2022 midterm elections, four House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump declined to run for office.
Mr. Romney had also begun to spark speculation that he was ready to leave the Senate when he agreed to participate in a biography to be published next month by Simon & Schuster, called “Romney: A Reckoning,” by McKay Coppins, a staff writer at The Atlantic. In the book, Mr. Romney cites his colleagues by name to explain how Republican lawmakers actually perceive and talk about Mr. Trump in private when the former president is not present.
Mr. Coppins allegedly conducted hours of interviews with Mr. Romney for the book and had access to Mr. Romney’s emails and his diary. The book’s impending release already has colleagues worried about their private thoughts and conversations regarding the party’s vengeful presidential candidate being aired publicly.
Mr. Romney also appears increasingly concerned about the likelihood of Mr. Trump becoming his party’s nominee.
In a recent opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, he implored Republican donors and candidates to unite around an alternative to Mr. Trump, lest they secure him the party nomination, writing that “donors who support someone with a slim chance of winning” should ask the candidate to commit to withdrawing and supporting the person with the best chance of defeating Mr. Trump by February 26.