Romney says he won't challenge Trump in 2020 but doesn't endorse him

Sen.-elect Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBiden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls The Memo: GOP mulls its future after Trump Biden teams to meet with Trump administration agencies MORE (R-Utah) said Wednesday that he hasn't decided whether to endorse President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE in the 2020 election, but ruled out mounting a primary challenge himself.

"I haven’t decided who I’m going to endorse in 2020. I’m going to see what the alternatives are," Romney said in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.

"I think it’s early to make that decision, and I want to see what the alternatives are," he continued. "I pointed out there are places [Trump and I] agree on a whole series of policy fronts, but there are places that I think the president can, if you will, elevate his game and help bring us together as a nation."


Romney's appearance on CNN came a day after he published an op-ed in The Washington Post criticizing the president for his lack of character and moral leadership. Romney lamented in the piece that Trump had failed to unite the nation, but acknowledged he supported a number of the president's policy accomplishments.

Trump responded by calling for Romney to be a "team player" and support the GOP agenda.

Romney's willingness to speak out against the president has led to speculation he may primary Trump in 2020, but the incoming senator knocked down that possibility on Wednesday.

"I acknowledged the president was successful and I was not," Romney said of past presidential campaigns. "He did something I couldn’t do. He won, and I recognize that and appreciate that. But no, I’m not running again and we’ll see whether someone else does in a Republican primary or not."

Romney, who previously served as governor of Massachusetts, has vacillated in his support of Trump. He welcomed Trump's endorsement in 2012 when Romney was the GOP presidential nominee, then criticized Trump's presidential nomination in 2016.

Trump endorsed Romney last year during his Senate bid in Utah.

Romney said Wednesday that he will support the president in areas where he agrees with him, including on securing the southern border. He said he would vote for Trump's proposed wall, adding that it should be supplemented with other systematic reforms to address broader immigration issues.

Asked for specific areas where he's been bothered by the president's actions, Romney cited Trump's comments after a 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., his repeated attacks on the press, his endorsement of Alabama Senate candidate Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Long-shot Espy campaign sees national boost in weeks before election Ocasio-Cortez slams Tulsi Gabbard for amplifying ballot harvesting video MORE, and his recent decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. He also said his op-ed was prompted in part by the resignation of Jim Mattis as Defense secretary.

Romney's op-ed on Wednesday prompted a swath of Trump's supporters to swipe at Romney, including some of the senator-elect's soon-to-be colleagues.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, who is Romney's niece, called the op-ed "disappointing and unproductive."

Romney downplayed McDaniel's comments. He acknowledged her loyalty to the president, and joked that her criticism was more "civil than it might have been across the Thanksgiving dinner table."

-Updated 5:30 p.m.