Although the senator cautioned that “a lot can happen between now and 2024,” he pointed to public opinion surveys that show Republican voters still overwhelmingly favor the former president.
“I look at the polls,” Romney said. “And the polls show that among the names being floated as potential contenders in 2024, if you put President Trump in there among Republicans, he wins in a landslide.”
The senator’s remarks represent a stark acknowledgment of Trump’s staying power within the Republican Party from one of the former president’s most prominent GOP critics.
Romney was the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump in his first impeachment trial last year for his dealings with Ukraine. And earlier this month, Romney and six other GOP colleagues found Trump guilty of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted to acquit Trump in his second impeachment trial, also declared that the former president was “morally and practically responsible” for the attack.
But high-ranking congressional Republicans have mostly softened their criticism of Trump in recent weeks, as the party comes to terms with his persistent popularity among GOP voters and the resilience of his political base.
Both House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) have made pilgrimages to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where the former president resides, and Trump is expected to speak Sunday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference — delivering his first major address since leaving office.
Trump has also confirmed that he will attend the Republican National Committee’s spring donor retreat in April.
According to a flash POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted in the days after his second impeachment trial, 57 percent of Republican voters said they want Trump to play a major role in their party going forward, and 80 percent of Republican respondents said they viewed him favorably.
Asked who they would support in the 2024 GOP presidential primary, 53 percent of Republicans surveyed said Trump. Former Vice President Mike Pence came in second place, with 12 percent Republican support, and all other contenders polled in the single digits.