Romney retires as Trump dominates a new Republican Party

First Read is your briefing from the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.


Happening this Thursday: President Biden stares down impeachment inquiry… Biden delivers economic speech in Largo, Md., at 2:45 pm ET… Vice President Harris kicks off “Fight for Our Freedoms” college tour at Hampton University in Virginia… New Washington Post/Monmouth poll shows Donald Trump with large lead in South Carolina… And NBC’s Kristen Welker interviews Trump.

But FIRST… The political tale of Mitt Romney, who announced Wednesday he won’t seek re-election to the Senate next year, has always been in large part a story about Donald Trump.

Romney, after all, invited Trump into the Republican Party when he accepted his endorsement in 2012, despite Trump’s “birther” crusade; Romney then denounced Trump’s presidential bid in 2016; Romney ran for the Senate in 2018 to be an independent voice from Trump’s; and he’s the only GOP senator to vote twice to convict Trump at his impeachment trials.

“While he’s had an illustrious political and business career in the public eye, [Romney’s] more recent chapters were often defined by his relationship with Trump — and his decision not to run will no doubt be seen through this lens,” Semafor writes.

Romney’s last decade-plus in the political spotlight is also a story about a changing Republican Party.

Whoever replaces him in ruby-red Utah — and The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter’s Jessica Taylor has a great breakdown of Romney’s potential successors — will be more conservative and Trump-friendly than Romney currently is.

(It’s similar to J.D. Vance succeeding Rob Portman as Ohio’s senator, or Marsha Blackburn replacing Bob Corker as Tennessee’s senator.)

And Romney’s story is about an aging politician who IS willing to let go of holding office — unlike the current president, the current GOP presidential frontrunner, the Senate minority leader, the senior senator from California and others.

“At the end of another term, I’d be in my mid-80s,” Romney said in his video announcing he won’t seek re-election. “Frankly, it’s time for a new generation of leaders. They’re the ones that need to make the decisions that will shape the world that they will be living in.”

Headline of the day

The number of the day is … 4

That’s the number of Republican senators out of the seven who voted to convict former President Donald Trump when he was impeached in 2021 that have chosen to retire or leave the Senate rather than to face voters in a re-election campaign.

Romney became the latest of this group to announce he wouldn’t seek another term on Wednesday.

Two of the now-former senators who declined to run for re-election in 2022 — Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Richard Burr of North Carolina — had announced their retirement decisions before the impeachment vote. Former Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who was up for re-election in 2026, left Congress in January to become the president of the University of Florida 

Of the three remaining senators, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski won her re-election race last year. And Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana are up for re-election in 2026.  

Other numbers to know

3.7%: How much prices for U.S. consumers spiked in August compared to a year ago

6: The number of GOP senators who signed a letter asking Attorney General Merrick Garland to step in and “protect the constitutional rights” of New Mexicans, where Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham temporarily banned the open and concealed carry of firearms, Fox News reports. 

10: The number of votes separating an incumbent mayor and an alderman who is facing criminal charges for his actions on Jan. 6 in a Connecticut mayoral primary, which is heading to a recount. 

406: The number of House members who voted in favor of a bill to improve how the government tracks wildfire prevention after an NBC News story detailed issues with the current process.

More than 6: The number of years that a Trump supporter was sentenced to prison after he battled law enforcement officers at the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol and then bragged about it online.

20,000: The number of people who are feared dead after devastating floods in Libya this week.

$240 million: How much the White House is pledging to fight cancer, in addition to more resources, to advance the administration’s “Cancer Moonshot initiative.

Eyes on 2024: Biden stares down impeachment fight

President Joe Biden is staring down a potential impeachment battle as he runs for re-election, but he said Wednesday he’s focused on other issues.

“I get up every day, not a joke, not focused on impeachment,” Biden said at a campaign reception in Virginia. “I’ve got a job to do. I’ve got to deal with the issues that affect the American people every single solitary day.” 

That’s in line with the White House’s strategy on impeachment, according to the New York Times, which reports that the White House plans to have Biden’s staff focus on the impeachment fight while he is focused on other policy issues.

On Wednesday morning, the White House issued a memo pushing back on Republicans’ claims of corruption surrounding Biden’s alleged involvement with his son Hunter’s international business dealings. The White House also called on news organizations to “scrutinize House Republicans’ demonstrably false claims”

House Democrats, meanwhile, are preparing to defend the president by distancing him from Hunter, per Politico. And they also are going to aim to portray House Republicans as far-right, and led by Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (after her recent meeting with former President Trump) rather than Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

In other campaign news…

DeSantis donors: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is heading to New York for fundraisers with Wall Street executives, per CNBC’s Brian Schwartz. And the Washington Post reports that in late 2018 DeSantis “took at least six undisclosed trips on private jets and accepted lodging and dining” that weren’t disclosed as either gifts or campaign contributions.

Vaccine politics: On Wednesday, DeSantis’ administration advised Florida residents under 65 against receiving the updated Covid vaccine, NBC News’ Aria Bendix and Matt Dixon report, bucking federal guidance.

Backtracking: Former Vice President Mike Pence initially said impeachment inquiries should begin with a full House vote, but then softened his language after McCarthy said he wouldn’t do so, per NBC News’ Sarah Dean. 

Polling personnel: Biden named veteran Democratic strategist Mindy Myers as the head of his campaign’s polling operation, per Politico. 

Granite State drama: New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan said Wednesday that a presidential candidate who “properly submits their paperwork during the filing period and pays the required fee” will appear on his state’s ballot, amid challenges to Trump’s candidacy over his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, NBC News’ Emma Barnett reports. In New Hampshire’s Democratic primary, the Democratic National Committee is expected to vote Thursday to give the state more time to comply with its new primary calendar, per Politico. 

Debate politics: South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott’s campaign is urging the Republican National Committee to prioritize early state polling in determining the podium placement and qualifying thresholds for future debates, a move that would benefit Scott, who is polling better in states like Iowa than he is nationally. 

Should I stay or should I go? The Washington Post reports on West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s private meetings about his political future, with guests including former President Bill Clinton, as he weighs either running for president, running for re-election as an independent or retiring. 

Stock trending down: New York Stock Exchange Vice Chair John Tuttle won’t run for Senate in Michigan, Politico reports

An uphill battle: Democrat Ryan Busse, a former firearm executive who later became a prominent critic of that industry, is running for governor in Montana, where he hopes to upset GOP Gov. Greg Gianforte.

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world:

Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola’s husband died in a plane crash, her office announced Wednesday. 

GOP Reps. James Comer and Jim Jordan briefed a group of Republican senators about the House’s impeachment inquiry into President Biden on Wednesday.