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What Mitt Romney says about Liz Cheney possibly running for president

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Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, listens as Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, addresses the South Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, left, listens as Sen. Mike Romney, R-Utah, right, addressing the South Valley Chamber of Commerce gathering at the Salt Mine Productive Workspace in Sandy on Thursday Aug. 18, 2022. As Rep. Liz Cheney contemplates her next move after losing the Republican primary in Wyoming this week, Romney says he wouldn’t encourage her to run for president.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

As Rep. Liz Cheney contemplates her next move after losing the Republican primary in Wyoming this week, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney says he wouldn’t encourage her to run for president.

“I’m not going to encourage anyone to run for president. I’ve done that myself, and that’s something I’m not doing again. I don’t know if she really wants to do that. She would not become the nominee if she were to run. I can’t imagine that would occur,” Romney told the Deseret News on Thursday.

Cheney, he said, might run for other purposes but “I’m not in collaboration with that effort.”

On Wednesday, Cheney told NBC’s “Today” show that she is “thinking about” a White House campaign in 2024.

“I believe that Donald Trump continues to pose a very grave threat and risk to our republic. And I think that defeating him is going to require a broad and united front of Republicans, Democrats and independents, and that’s what I intend to be a part of,” she said.

As he has in the past, Romney said Trump would almost certainly win the GOP nomination if he runs in 2024. And if it’s not Trump, it would likely be someone like him.

“I don’t think someone who is seen outside the Trump circle would have any realistic chance of becoming the nominee in 2024, barring something I can’t foresee at this stage,” he said. “If he doesn’t run again, I think it’ll be people who either were supporters of his or people who didn’t say much about him and then would be open to become the nominee.”

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Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, left, speaks with Jane Ann Craig at the South Valley Chamber of Commerce gathering at the Salt Mine Productive Workspace in Sandy on Thursday Aug. 18, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Romney, a featured speaker at a Cheney fundraiser earlier this year, said he has not spoken with her since she lost handily to Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman on Tuesday.

The Republican Party is “very much” in Trump’s corner, and going against his interest meant Cheney had a “very difficult, an almost impossible” race, he said.

“I salute her courage. You wouldn’t call it courage, by the way, if there were no consequence for doing what you think is right. She did what she thought was right. I believe she was right,” Romney said.

Romney and Cheney are among a small group of Republicans who voted to impeach or convict Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Both repeatedly pushed back against Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Cheney is also one of two Republicans on a House panel investigating the insurrection. Romney has said that he believes the House committee effort is an important and legitimate effort. He also favored the creation of a bipartisan commission in the Senate, but the vote failed.

Romney condemned the Republican National Committee for censuring Cheney this year over her criticism of Trump and her role with the investigative committee.

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Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks during a South Valley Chamber of Commerce meeting at Salt Mine Productive in Sandy on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

With Cheney’s loss, only two of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump will be on the November ballot. Four lost primaries, while four, including Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the other GOP member of the Jan. 6 committee, did not seek reelection.

Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, said it might be the case now that Trump-backed candidates are winning Republican elections, but it won’t be forever.

“My party has changed a great deal over the last decade. It will change again over the next 10 years. I can’t tell you how, but I think we’ll have more voices than one at some point,” he said. “But right now one voice, and that’s President Trump’s voice, is the loudest and the strongest and bucking him is something people will do at their peril.”

Romney said he believes it is likely that Republicans will win the House in the midterm election, but the Senate is a tossup.

“I take my cue from Mitch McConnell who watches it more closely than I do in terms of the races outside of our own races here,’’ he said. “But he looks at races around the nation and I guess just yesterday he said too close to call.”

Also Thursday, Romney, Sen. Mike Lee, Rep. John Curtis and Rep. Burgess Owens talked inflation, energy, China and several other issues during a discussion hosted by the South Valley Chamber in Sandy.

The four Republicans agreed the newly passed $750 billion Inflation Reduction Act that President Joe Biden signed into law this week is misnamed and bad for Utah and the country.

“Naming it doesn’t make it happen,” Curtis said. He said part of his frustration about the bill is that it was 100% partisan. No Republicans voted for the Democrat-backed legislation.

Owens, who appeared via video conferencing, said Democrats “have no shame in saying we fooled you guys. Be happy with it.”

Anytime Congress has to pass something called the Inflation Reduction Act “something has gone terribly wrong,” Lee said, noting the 9.1% inflation rate nationwide.

Price increases, he said, have hit Utah especially hard, with inflation higher than the national average at 15.4%. Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, where Lee is the ranking Republican, estimates Utahns are paying $910 a month more for basic goods than they were a year ago.

Attributing inflation to excessive federal spending, Lee called it “cruel, savage and wrong” to pass the massive spending bill now.

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Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, meet during a South Valley Chamber of Commerce meeting at Salt Mine Productive in Sandy on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News