Mitt Romney’s road map for stopping Donald Trump in 2024

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, the Utah senator says Republican megadonors can prevent Trump from winning the GOP nomination next year.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney speaks to media after a visit to the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Romney argues that Republican megadonors can stop Donald Trump from becoming the 2024 presidential nominee.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is urging Republicans not to nominate Donald Trump for president a third time in 2024, and he’s drawn up a road map to help them avoid that situation.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Romney calls on Republican megadonors to turn off the campaign cash spigot when a GOP rival to Trump sags, pressuring them to drop out of the race. He says candidates with no chance of winning should drop out of the race by Feb. 26, 2024.

“There are incentives for no-hope candidates to overstay their prospects. Coming in behind first place may grease another run in four years or have market value of its own: Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum got paying gigs. And as former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu has observed, ‘It is fun running for president if you know you cannot win,’” Romney wrote.

The logic behind Romney’s argument is Trump can be beaten in a head-to-head contest, but he will sew up the GOP nomination if several candidates hang on and split the anti-Trump vote. Most GOP presidential nominating contests are winner-take-all, even if the victory only secures a plurality of support.

“Left to their own inclinations, expect several of the contenders to stay in the race for a long time. They will split the non-Trump vote, giving him the prize,” Romney wrote.

Trump has a massive lead over his GOP rivals. His closest challenger is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who trails Trump nationally by more than 30 points, according to FiveThirtyEight’s latest tally.

Romney hopes to avoid a repeat of 2016 when a dozen Republicans, including Trump, were in the race for the party’s presidential nomination. Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich remained in the race long until it was too late to stop Trump from winning the nomination. Sen. Mike Lee tried to broker an alliance between Cruz and Rubio to stop Trump, but that effort fell short.

Romney argues that candidates won’t listen to party officials who ask them to drop out of the race “because voters don’t listen to them either.” That’s why he says the responsibility for narrowing the field necessarily falls on the shoulders of megadonors.

“A few billionaires have already committed tens of millions of dollars. They have a responsibility to give their funds with clear eyes about their candidate’s prospects,” Romney wrote. “Donors who are backing someone with a slim chance of winning should seek a commitment from the candidate to drop out and endorse the person with the best chance of defeating Mr. Trump by Feb. 26.”

Romney has been one of the most consistent critics of Trump. In April, following Trump’s indictment on 34 felony counts relating to hush money payments allegedly made to an adult film actress, Romney said the former president was “unfit for office.” Romney concluded his op-ed by echoing that sentiment.

“Our party and our country need a nominee with character, driven by something greater than revenge and ego, preferably from the next generation. Family, friends and campaign donors are the only people who can get a lost-cause candidate to exit the race. After Feb. 26, they should start doing just that.”

Read Romney’s full op-ed here: “Donors, Don’t Fund a Trump Plurality”