Sep 13, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Romney's third-party dance with Manchin spills into view

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) leaves a Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on May 31, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) leaves a Republican policy luncheon at the Capitol on May 31 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) privately toyed with creating a new political party that would "endorse whichever party's nominee isn't stupid," The Atlantic's McKay Coppins writes in the first excerpt from an upcoming biography.

Why it matters: Romney said Wednesday he floated the new party with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) "months ago" and has tried to convince the centrist Democrat not to run as an independent in 2024.

  • Romney, one of the most high-profile Republican critics of former President Trump, told Coppins that he sought a party that promoted centrist policies. Its working slogan: "Stop the stupid."
  • "We'd say, 'This party's going to endorse whichever party's nominee isn't stupid,'" Romney told Coppins in the sprawling excerpt published Wednesday.

Zoom in: Romney told Coppins that he was not ready to leave politics entirely, but felt like there wasn't a place for him in today's GOP.

  • "A very large portion of my party really doesn't believe in the Constitution," he told Coppins a few months after Jan. 6.

The big picture: The former Massachusetts governor announced Wednesday that he would not seek a second term in the Senate, saying that "it's time for a new generation of leaders."

  • Romney has opposed efforts by No Labels, a centrist group, to put forward an independent candidate in 2024. "I lobby continuously that it would only elect Trump," he told the Washington Post, which first reported his decision.
  • Romney told the Post that he has spoken "many times" to Manchin, who has publicly flirted with a possible third-party presidential bid.

What to watch: Manchin told the Huffington Post that Romney's retirement from the Senate "won't affect my decision" for 2024 at all. "It'll just make me very sad."

  • Manchin said he and Romney have had "an awful lot of different conversations."
  • Asked about conversations for a new party, Manchin said: "That's just what they were, conversations."

Go deeper: Joe Manchin fires back against 2024 spoiler label

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