Concerned that the Democratic field wasn’t up to the task of stopping President Donald J. Trump in 2020, Oprah Winfrey pitched Mitt Romney on the idea of running for president as an independent, with her as his running mate, according to a forthcoming biography of the Republican senator from Utah.
Ms. Winfrey floated the unusual joint ticket in a phone call she placed to Mr. Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, in November 2019, according to an excerpt from the book, “Romney: A Reckoning,” that was shared with The New York Times.
Mr. Romney at least listened to the idea. (It was Oprah calling, after all.) He “heard the pitch, and told her he was flattered, but that he’d have to pass,” the author, McKay Coppins of The Atlantic, writes.
The book was based on hours of interviews with Mr. Romney, as well as emails, texts and journals that the senator had been saving to potentially write a memoir. Realizing he could not be objective about himself, Mr. Romney has said he chose to have a journalist write about him instead.
She has known the Romneys since 2012, when she interviewed them at their lakeside home in New Hampshire as Mr. Romney was running for president. Ms. Winfrey had also seen Ms. Romney at various social events, and was “especially fond” of her, according to the book.
On the phone with Ms. Romney, Ms. Winfrey explained that Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, was preparing to enter the race and had approached her about joining his ticket. Before she decided, she wanted to gauge Mr. Romney’s interest.
She doubted that Joseph R. Biden Jr. or Pete Buttigieg could beat Mr. Trump and was “certain” that Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts could not, according to the book.
Ms. Romney responded that her husband would not run for president in 2020, either as a Republican or as an independent, Mr. Coppins writes. Mr. Romney also politely batted down the idea, according to the book.
Liz Johnson, an aide to Mr. Romney, declined to comment on Monday. An aide to Mr. Bloomberg also declined to comment.
Emails to OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, were not immediately returned. Axios reported that “a source familiar with Ms. Winfrey’s thinking said she was never serious about running — although some close to her thought she should.”
Ms. Winfrey has at times been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate herself. In 2018, after she delivered a rousing speech at the Golden Globes, some were clamoring for her to run. But she told “60 Minutes Overtime” that she would not become a candidate in 2020 even though “I had a lot of wealthy men calling, telling me that they would run my campaign and raise $1 billion for me.”
“I am actually humbled by the fact that people think that I could be a leader of the free world, but it’s just not in my spirit,” she said. “It’s not in my DNA.”
Mr. Romney, 76, recently announced that he would not seek re-election in 2024, saying he wanted to make way for a “new generation of leaders.” He strongly suggested that Mr. Trump and President Biden should also bow out, arguing that neither was effectively leading his party to confront the “critical challenges” the nation faces.