Mitt Romney: My Conscience Won't Allow Me to Vote for Trump or Clinton

The 2012 GOP nominee says that he may write in his wife’s name, or may vote for a third party candidate.

Mike Blake / Reuters

Before the 1964 Presidential election, Governor George Romney was part of an effort to stop Senator Barry Goldwater from winning the Republican Party’s nomination.

Today, his son Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 nominee for the presidency, has emerged as a leading establishment critic of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee. On Wednesday, he reiterated that he will not vote Trump due to defects in Trump’s character and a belief that Trump is destroying the GOP’s future with women, Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, and millenials. Neither will Romney vote for Hillary Clinton.

“It’s a matter of personal conscience,” he said. “I can’t vote for either of those two people.” He suggested that he would write in his wife’s name––she would be “an ideal president,” he said––or he would cast his ballot for a third-party candidate.

And he reaffirmed that he will not be that candidate.

Though urged by his family to enter the race, he feels he could not win as a third party candidate and couldn’t fundraise in good conscience to play spoiler. He will focus in the 2016 cycle on campaigning for Save Our Senate and Team Ryan, efforts to help the Republicans win as many Congressional races as possible. “It’s the middle class and the poor,” he said, “that need conservative principles to get rising, real wages.”

Romney’s comments were made in an interview with political journalist John Dickerson at The Aspen Ideas Festival, co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic.

Early in his remarks, he looked back on his own failed attempt to win the White House. “I was talking about policy when it would have been more effective to talk about why I favor that policy—to get wages up,” he said. He also argued that the Republican primary process poses a challenge to GOP nominees: They spend a year talking to partisan Republicans, who are older and whiter than the country as a whole, about issues they care about most, while their Democratic rivals spend the primary process speaking on college campuses and to gatherings of minority groups.

Republicans need those votes in the general election, he explained, but by the time they start to pursue them it’s too late––and to win in future cycles, he theorized, GOP candidates must go before those groups and make their pitches earlier.

Romney also declared that the current system of campaign finance regulation is a mess––it would be better to allow unlimited donations to candidates and their campaigns, he argued, than to have a system where unlimited donations are allowed, but only to SuperPacs, which are not run by the candidates or their campaigns, who could at least be held accountable for whatever messages that they put out.

This year, he said, “it’s unfortunate that both on the left and right, Bernie Sanders has run a campaign that said all your problems, middle class Americans are because of those big banks and Wall Street… and on the right our nominee is saying, it’s these people here, it’s Mexicans coming across the border… it’s them and it’s Muslims… I’m afraid the things Mr. Trump has said has been unfortunate branding for our party...”

Would Romney feel better about Trump if he stuck to scripted remarks going forward?

“No,” Romney said.

Near the end of the interview John Dickerson pressed Romney: Who is more qualified to be president, he asked, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Romney said that he wasn’t going to make news, and wanted to focus on campaigning for candidates he supports. Even so, earlier in the interview, he made a point of quoting writer and satirist P.J. O’Rourke: “Hillary Clinton is wrong on every issue,” Romney approvingly repeated, “but she’s wrong within the normal parameters.”