Speaking to a room full of Republican donors and influencers, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney made another plea for his party to coalesce around a single choice to take on President Donald Trump in the Republican primary.

He also said he’s encouraged several Democratic senators — naming two — to run against President Joe Biden, but so far he’s found no takers.

Romney made the remarks Tuesday evening during a Q&A with his former running mate and former House Speaker Paul Ryan at the E2 Summit in Park City, a gathering of influential Republican donors and thinkers.

During their conversation, Romney addressed a series of domestic and foreign policy issues — including Hamas’ attack on Israel — and both he and Ryan raised concerns about the future of the Republican Party.

Mitt Romney talks about who might replace him — and what comes next
GOP presidential hopefuls arrive in Park City for Sen. Mitt Romney-led summit

Four presidential candidates spoke to summit attendees earlier in the day Tuesday, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was at the dinner Tuesday night; former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley; former Vice President Mike Pence; and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

Romney said he would be happy with any one of them winning the Republican nomination.

When they ran in 2012, Romney and Ryan were known for their free-market, fiscally conservative positions, which were the dominant positions among Republican voters and candidates at the time.

Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., top left, speaks with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, during the E2 Summit at Stein Eriksen Lodge on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, in Park City. | Alex Goodlett, for the Deseret News

That shifted after the election of Trump in 2016, who brought a more populist message to the GOP, along with blue collar voters who had traditionally voted for Democrats.

The shift has left the Republican Party at odds with itself, Romney said. But, he pointed out, Democrats are facing the same problem as they learn how to keep a new crop of suburban, college-educated supporters happy.

Paul Ryan: Trump a ‘scourge’ on the country, Republican Party

“I think our party has multiple personality disorder,” he said. “And I think the Democratic Party does as well. I think we’re schizophrenic. We don’t know what we are or what we stand for within our party right now.”

Ryan echoed Romney’s concerns, and his take on the Democratic Party, saying he tells his progressive friends they have a harder mess to clean up than Republicans because their base is battling from an ideological standpoint, while Republicans are battling a cult of personality around Trump.

“But it’s frankly not that simple,” Ryan said. “What does the Republican Party, the conservative movement, look like after this?”

Romney said he’s encouraged Democratic senators — including Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia — to challenge Biden.

But, he said, Democrats have told him that the likely heir to Biden is a more progressive Democrat like Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“And they don’t want that — they don’t think that’s right for the country, either,” he said.

Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, speaks with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, during the E2 Summit at Stein Eriksen Lodge on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, in Park City. | Alex Goodlett, for the Deseret News

Romney’s friends in the Senate

Romney also spoke about a group of eight senators — four Republicans and four Democrats — who worked together to pass bipartisan legislation.

It started with a dinner at Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s home during COVID-19, he said. The senators grabbed takeout, opened the windows, sat 6 feet apart and discussed policy.

The Republicans in the group included Romney, Murkowski, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Rob Portman. The Democrats were Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin, Jon Tester and Jeanne Shaheen.

Eventually that group was influential in passing a series of bills, including a COVID-19 stimulus bill under Trump, then an infrastructure bill, the CHIPS Act, and the Respect for Marriage Act under Biden.