Mitt Rides Off Into The Sunset

[ Posted Wednesday, September 13th, 2023 – 15:40 UTC ]

Mitt Romney is hanging up his spurs, it seems. Well, that is perhaps not the best metaphor to use since even though he represents a Mountain West state with plenty of horses to ride, it's hard to picture him atop one of them while wearing spurs. OK, sure, riding one, maybe... but perhaps politely riding dressage, since the only famous link between equestrian sports and Romney was the "dancing horse" his wife entered in the 2012 Olympics. But we're galloping a bit too far down the wrong trail, here, pardner.

All kidding aside, the fact that Mitt Romney will not be running for re-election to his Senate seat next year is notable for a number of reasons. His announcement made somewhat of a splash because of the main reason Romney gave for his decision:

At the end of another term, I'd be in my mid-80s. Frankly, it's time for a new generation of leaders. They're the ones that need to make the decisions that will shape the world they will be living in.

In case we had missed his larger point, Romney then went on to explain in detail why he thought neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump would be acceptable as our next president (which went beyond their respective ages to matters of policy and leadership).

After I personally took Representative Nancy Pelosi to task last Friday (for announcing her own re-election bid) and after years of complaining and questioning Senator Dianne Feinstein's fitness for office, I have to applaud this selfless move by Romney. I don't really care what party you are in, at some point you really should gracefully exit the stage, lest your refusal to do so tarnish your overall political legacy. As Feinstein is currently experiencing -- as I continue to point out (as one of her constituents).

This really is a bipartisan stance, for me. I think Mitch McConnell's too old to serve. I (along with every other sane person in the entire country) thought Strom Thurmond served at least a decade too long. I even wrote a long time ago about Ted Kennedy's refusal to step down, which became somewhat embarrassing when he died five days after the column ran. That was a special case, because Kennedy wasn't just staying in office past his prime, he was actually refusing to step down while he was dying. Even thought the timing of the article did embarrass me (for "kicking a good man while he's down," as it were) my message was a valid one: Massachusetts deserved two functioning senators. As does every state.

The problem for elderly politicians, of course, is that they are living at the absolute peak of their political power and relevance and they know that retirement isn't going to be half as much fun as continuing to enjoy the perks of office. Which is why it's important to support all politicians who selflessly do decide that it is time for the torch to be passed to a younger generation. I supported Barbara Boxer when she decided to retire, since she showed the grace and respect for her voters that Feinstein now lacks.

But Romney's retirement is notable for other reasons as well. Romney wasn't the warmest nor fuzziest politician to hit the national stage, of course, but liberals all became a lot more enamored of his basic humanity when he decided to break with Donald Trump. Romney was the only Republican senator to vote for Trump's conviction on impeachment charges twice (the first time he was the sole GOP vote, while the second time six more joined him). Romney is not exactly a brash, in-your-face kind of guy (à la Chris Christie), but he strongly stood up for what he believed was morally right and he took on both Donald Trump and his own party in a big way by doing so. He didn't dance around the issue or refuse to talk about it, he said exactly what he felt about what Trump was doing to his party and to the entire country.

This all took a political toll on Romney, but Utah is more insular in its politics than most states and he probably could have won another term if he had decided to run again. The Washington Post noted that his impeachment votes weren't the political death knell they might have been in other red states:

Both votes, but especially the first, cost Romney politically, at home in Utah and more broadly within a party that Trump has come to dominate. He acknowledged the damage he had sustained, but said, "If there were no cost to doing what's right, there'd be no such thing as courage.... I think it's fair to say that the support I get in Utah is because people respect someone who does what they believe is right, even if they disagree with me."

Republicans have speculated that because of his opposition to Trump, Romney could face a difficult battle to win a second term if he decided to run again. But the senator said fear of losing had nothing to do with his decision. In fact, he said, he was confident that, had he decided to run again, he would prevail. He pointed to a recent poll in Utah that showed his approval rebounding to 56 percent, a sharp rise from the 40 percent recorded in May and numbers showing him well ahead of potential rivals.

The timing of his announcement was interesting, as the New York Times points out (towards the end of the article):

Mr. Romney had also begun to stir speculation that he was ready to move on from the Senate when he agreed to participate in a biography set to be published next month by Scribner, titled Romney: A Reckoning, by McKay Coppins, a staff writer at The Atlantic. In the book, Mr. Romney is said to quote his colleagues by name in discussing how Republican lawmakers really view and talk about Mr. Trump in private when the former president is not present.

Mr. Coppins is said to have conducted hours of interviews with Mr. Romney for the book, and was given access to the senator's emails and his diary. The book's impending release already has his colleagues concerned about their private thoughts and conversations regarding the party's vengeful presidential front-runner being aired publicly.

So we've all got that to look forward to, apparently. Romney's going to upset a few more Republican applecarts on his way out the door, it seems. Good for him!

Mitt Romney's basic flaw as a human being, which was exposed mercilessly when he achieved the nomination of his party for president, is that he is such a world-class dweeb. He couldn't do such simple things as attend a baseball game without exposing his inner dweeb. It was cringeworthy to watch, in fact. But that core dweebishness is what made him stand up to Trump (eventually, to be perfectly accurate, as he did beg Trump to name him secretary of state). Romney's refusal to deny reality and buy into Trump's warped vision of the world stood as an example of how the rest of the Republican Party should have behaved (but sadly, didn't). His voice will be missed because of this, because there are precious few Republicans left in office or even in the party who show such courage and strength.

So even though I disagree politically with Romney on easily over 90 percent of everything, I have to applaud the man as he announces his impending retirement. Dweeb or not, he stood up to the biggest bully around and survived to tell the tale. And he announced he was stepping down before he started physically and mentally falling apart before the public's eyes. In doing both of these things, he showed real leadership.

So we wish him well in his retirement, and applaud his going back home to spend some quality time with his family. And with Rafalca (his wife's dancing horse), of course.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


8 Comments on “Mitt Rides Off Into The Sunset”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Okay, here's a fun game!

    Name one Democrat under the age of ... oh, say 70, who has demonstrated that he or she is presidential material and able to beat Donald Trump in 2024.

    There is just one rule: you can't name Kamala Harris! Because, she has demonstrated quite the opposite and she has had many years to hone in on this ability to no avail.

  2. [2] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    I don't know what Chris's definition of a "dweeb" is, but in spite of Chris not being willing to mention it, Romney, the epitome of a 'class act' among contemporary politicians, lost his presidential bid mostly by virtue of being a Mormon.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    mitt being a mormon had practically nothing to do with the 2012 election outcome. romney mostly lost because he was up against barack obama, who is better looking, a better speaker, and better at connecting with voters emotionally. same goes for john mccain in 2008, also an outstanding public servant and also a man of principle. it is a tragic shame that the worst and most beatable democratic candidate happened to coincide with the nomination of most corrupt, vindictive and incompetent jackass to hit the presidency since the nineteenth century.


  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  5. [5] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    Your criteria (better looking, black, etc) make it obvious that voters are so damn superficial/dumb that we deserve the kind of leadership we're getting these days.

    Sounds like TV is killing us. Honest Abe could NEVER get elected today!!

  6. [6] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    CRS -

    I missed where nypoet22 included "black" in his concise and correct list of Obama's advantages over Romney in 2012.

    As to the decline and fall of everything, note poet's #3 advantage that Obama had: "better at connecting with voters emotionally".
    That's the essence of democracy, as far as I can tell, and has been since the beginning of the republic. No, the voters don't check off boxes about policy positions and budget proposals, and they never have, even in the time of Honest Abe. They vote for leaders that they *feel* are most understanding of their concerns, fears, and hopes.

    Abe communicated that understanding to his voters, and Obama did too. And so, it's sad to relate, did Trump, even if his voters were a technical minority advantaged by the electoral college's mechanics.

  7. [7] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M

    Not true. In reality Trump was NEVER actually "elected". What really happened was, Hillary was "UN-elected"! Trump didn't change his "emotional connection to voters" message in 2020, but he still got "UN-elected"!

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    While TV has certainly changed the method by which candidates present themselves to their prospective constituents, the electorate has been susceptible to the effects of substance-free charisma since pretty much forever.


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