Mitt Romney and his moderate allies plan to depart the Senate or confront a challenging reelection campaign

Sen. Mitt Romney’s departure from Congress in January has further diminished the already dwindling moderate bloc in Congress. While his seat in Utah, a staunchly conservative state, is expected to remain in Republican hands, it is uncertain whether it will be filled by another centrist like Romney.

Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican, has been criticized by former President Donald Trump for being a “RINO” or Republican In Name Only. This criticism is often directed towards party members who are considered liberal. Despite this, Romney stands out as one of the few Republicans in the Senate who voted to impeach Trump.

Romney acknowledged the potential consequences of his decision in his journal, as published in his latest biography, when the impeachment vote took place on Feb. 6, 2021.

“My Senate colleagues would completely shun me, hindering my ability to pass any legislation. And, of course, I wouldn’t be able to achieve anything through the administration,” he expressed. “For the remainder of my life, I would constantly face criticism from those who despise my actions. If I were to simply vote along party lines, my vote would be taken for granted, and those who oppose Trump would simply label me as a heartless Republican. However, if I were to vote against my party, it would provoke genuine animosity and hostility.”

Romney’s prediction proved true as he distanced himself from numerous hardline conservatives. However, as the pandemic unfolded, the Utah senator forged new alliances.


During a recent event with former House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senator Mitt Romney revealed that a bipartisan group consisting of four Republicans and four Democrats gathered at the home of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski for dinner. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the senators maintained social distancing by sitting six feet apart. Over a meal of takeout, they engaged in productive discussions surrounding policy matters.

The group consisted of Republican senators, namely Sens. Romney, Murkowski, Susan Collins of Maine, and Rob Portman of Ohio. On the other hand, the Democrats in the group were Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, who has since registered as an independent, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, as reported by the Deseret News.

The group played a crucial role in getting multiple bipartisan bills passed, including the COVID-19 stimulus bill during the Trump administration, as well as the infrastructure bill, the CHIPS Act, and the Respect for Marriage Act under the Biden administration.

In September 2023, Romney announced that he would not seek reelection and would complete his term in office by January 2025. During this time, he expressed his hope to address important issues such as the deficit, debt, and immigration. Romney stated, “I’m looking forward to utilizing the remaining year and a half to tackle these challenges.”

Many other moderate senators are retiring or facing tough reelection battles, coinciding with his retirement. According to political science professor Michael Lyons at Utah State University, the middle lane in Congress has been shrinking for decades.

According to the expert, winning party nominations can be a challenge for moderates. This is mainly due to the low turnout in primary elections, which allows highly ideological voters to dominate the selection process. Furthermore, the shift in population has led to increased ideological homogeneity in many states.

According to the speaker, currently only five states have “split” Senate delegations. However, he highlighted that from 1973 to 1994, there were consistently at least 20 such delegations.

Collins is facing reelection in 2027, while Murkowski and Shaheen’s terms in the Senate will come to an end in 2029. Let’s take a look at what other members of their caucus have on their plates.

Sen. Joe Manchin

Following the news of Romney’s retirement, Manchin of West Virginia also announced that he will not be running for reelection. His term is set to end in 2025. Romney expressed his appreciation for Manchin, stating on Twitter (formerly known as X), that he will miss having an “American patriot in the Senate.” However, he reassured that their friendship and shared commitment to American values will persist. Manchin and Romney have collaborated on various legislative endeavors, including the infrastructure bill and pandemic-era relief efforts.

There are rumors circulating that Manchin is considering running for president in 2024. Additionally, a political action committee is actively trying to recruit both Romney and Manchin to form a unity third-party presidential ticket.

Former Sen. Rob Portman

Rob Portman departed from his position on January 3, 2023, choosing not to pursue another six-year term in the Senate, a decision he made two years earlier. His motivations for stepping down were twofold: to prioritize spending more time with his family and to escape the frustratingly entrenched partisan divisions in Washington, D.C. In 2021, he candidly expressed his concerns about the increasing difficulty of achieving tangible results, stating, “It’s becoming increasingly challenging to accomplish anything,” during an interaction with reporters.

Sen. J.D. Vance, who is currently occupying Portman’s seat, was endorsed by Portman in 2022, despite their contrasting positions. While Portman played a crucial role in negotiating the bipartisan infrastructure bill, Vance vehemently opposed it, referring to it as a “hatchet job” in 2021. Additionally, Vance has consistently expressed his opposition to providing funding to Ukraine, while Portman served as the co-chair of the Senate Caucus on Ukraine during his time in office.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema

The independent senator is still undecided about whether she will run for reelection in 2024. Kari Lake and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb are currently vying for the Republican nomination, while Rep. Ruben Gallego is seeking the Democratic nomination. There are also several lesser-known candidates in the mix, as previously reported by the Deseret News. If Sinema does decide to run, she is relying on the support of approximately 24% of registered Republicans, around 10% to 20% of Democrats, and 60% to 70% of independent voters, as stated in a leaked campaign memo from September.

Sinema is currently deeply engaged in the endeavor to obtain bipartisan funding for border security. According to her interview with The Wall Street Journal, she describes these negotiations as “definitely the hardest thing we’ve done.” She emphasizes that it is imperative to address the crisis at the southern border without further delay.

Sen. Jon Tester

Despite being popular in a predominantly Republican state where Trump emerged victorious in 2020, the Democratic senator from Montana, Jon Tester, cannot rely solely on his popularity for a successful reelection. According to The Associated Press, Tester has only narrowly won the previous three elections. Additionally, the Republican party is anticipated to invest significant funds to support GOP candidates in their quest to gain control of the Senate. The Cook Political Report initially classified the race as “leaning Democratic,” but it is now considered a “toss-up.”

Aerospace founder and CEO Tim Sheehy, a Republican candidate, is running against Tester. He has received endorsements from prominent figures such as Senators Steve Daines of Montana, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, as well as Senate Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota. Additionally, former Montana Secretary of State Brad Johnson is also vying for the position.

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