‘You have to run’: Romney urged Biden to take down Trump, book says

Gabriel Debenedetti, author of book on Biden’s relationship with Obama, reports call on night of 2018 midterms

On the night of the 2018 midterm elections, as a wave of anti-Trump sentiment swept Democrats to take control of the House, top Republican Mitt Romney urged Joe Biden to run for president.

“You have to run,” said Romney, the Republican presidential nominee Biden and Barack Obama defeated in 2012, speaking to the former vice-president by phone.

The same night, Romney was elected a US senator from Utah, a post from which he would twice vote to convict Donald Trump in impeachment trials.

Romney’s exhortation to a man then seen as a likely challenger to Donald Trump in 2020 will probably further enrage the former president, his supporters and the Republican party they dominate.

The Biden-Romney call is described in The Long Alliance: The Imperfect Union of Joe Biden and Barack Obama, a book by Gabriel Debenedetti that will be published next week. The Guardian obtained a copy.

Describing how Biden spent 6 November 2018, Debenedetti writes: “Biden spent election night glued to his phone as usual … He talked to most of the candidates he’d campaigned for, and plenty he didn’t, either to congratulate or console them, or just to catch up.

“This time felt better than 2016” – when Trump beat Hillary Clinton for the presidency – “in part because Democrats were winning big, at least in local races and in the House.

“But it was also because of a refrain [Biden] kept hearing, and not always from the most expected sources.

“At one point he connected with Mitt Romney, who’d been easily elected to the Senate that night as a rare Trump-opposing Republican. They were warm as Biden cheered Romney’s win.

“Then Obama’s old rival got to the point: You have to run, Romney said.”

In a note on sourcing, Debenedetti says his book is “primarily the product of hundreds of interviews” with “colleagues, aides, rivals, confidants, allies and eyewitnesses from every stage” of Obama and Biden’s careers since 2003.

He also says: “When someone’s words are rendered in italics, that indicates an approximation based on the memories of sources who did not recall exact wordings.”

Romney launches extensive attack on Trump: ‘A genius he is not’

Romney’s opposition to Trump is long established, if not entirely consistent.

In 2016, the former Massachusetts governor spoke out against Trump, decrying his behaviour on the campaign trail and calling him a “phony” and a “fraud”. After the election, he said he did not vote for the Republican nominee, writing in his wife’s name instead.

Nonetheless, Romney then flirted with working for Trump, pitching to be secretary of state. He generally voted with his president after taking his seat in the Senate.

But the relationship was never smooth – Trump called Romney a “pompous ass” – and in 2019 Romney told the New York Times: “People say to me, ‘If you’re critical of the president you’re hurting the party.’ No I’m not – I’m laying out a path for the party post the president.”

In 2020, when Trump was impeached for blackmailing Ukraine for dirt on rivals including Biden, Romney became the first senator ever to vote to convict and remove a president of his own party.

He said he did not vote for Trump in that year’s election – but refused to say if he voted for Biden.

In 2021, Trump was impeached a second time, for inciting the Capitol attack. Romney voted to convict again.


Martin Pengelly in New York

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The Hill to Die On review: Trump, Ryan and a Republican dumpster fire
Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer deliver a deeply sourced tale of ineptitude, cowardice and other common political traits

Lloyd Green

06, Apr, 2019 @5:00 AM

Article image
This Will Not Pass review: Trump-Biden blockbuster is dire reading for Democrats
Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns have made waves with tapes of Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans – but the president’s party has more to fear from what they reveal

Lloyd Green

01, May, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
Donald Trump and Joe Biden exchange blows in Nevada as midterms loom
As president stages MAGA rally in support of Senator Dean Heller, former VP tells union workers Trump is ‘shredding’ US values

Martin Pengelly and agencies

20, Oct, 2018 @8:50 PM

Article image
Trump and Navarro condemn John Bolton's China claim
After judge allows publication but criticizes author’s behaviour, senior White House aide says Bolton ‘should turn in his seersucker suit for a jumpsuit’

Martin Pengelly in New York

22, Jun, 2020 @12:00 AM

Article image
Biden seeks term-defining wins in Georgia runoffs Trump called 'illegal'
Contests will decide control of Senate and how far Biden can reach on issues such as pandemic, healthcare, taxation and environment

Guardian staff and agencies

02, Jan, 2021 @2:57 PM

Article image
Trump and Biden head for Minnesota as early voting begins in three states
Candidates both hit key state where Democrat retains an edge while lines form at polling stations in Virginia

Joan E Greve in Washington and Sam Levine in New York

18, Sep, 2020 @8:08 PM

Article image
How Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death could affect Senate races – and Trump v Biden
Susan Collins of Maine is among vulnerable Republican senators as polls indicate voters trust Biden more on justice picks

Tom McCarthy, national affairs correspondent

19, Sep, 2020 @8:46 PM

Article image
Supreme court: Joe Biden accuses Trump and Republicans of abuse of power
Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg rocks presidential race as Trump says he will pick a woman and McConnell promises vote

David Smith in Washington

21, Sep, 2020 @7:56 AM

Article image
'I just want 11,780 votes': Trump pressed Georgia to overturn Biden victory
Trump asked secretary of state Brad Raffensperger in hour-long phone call to recalculate vote

Martin Pengelly in New York and Richard Luscombe in Miami

03, Jan, 2021 @10:40 PM

Article image
Joe Biden beats Donald Trump to win US election 2020 – as it happened
Biden has won the election, winning Pennsylvania and Nevada and surpassing the 270 electoral college votes needed for the White House

Joan E Greve (now); Martin Belam, Tom McCarthy and Maanvi Singh (earlier)

07, Nov, 2020 @5:54 PM