SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Before U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney announced his plans not to seek reelection on Wednesday, his political fame nearly took him to the White House. His tenure as a politician dates back to the turn of the century.

Romney’s long run as a prominent politician now has an end date. His political career began more than 20 years ago, taking over the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Then-businessman Mitt Romney gained widespread popularity.

“I believe the Olympics really represent, for people all over the globe, a moment of peace,” said Mitt Romney on Feb. 11, 1999.

Many Utahns credit him for turning around the Games, previously mired in scandal, to become one of the most successful in American history.  

“I have to tell you what an incredible human being, to come in and take over, deliver what needed to be delivered,” said Lane Beattie, Former Salt Lake Chamber president.  

Romney’s achievement with the games propelled him into political office. In November of 2002, Romney was elected Governor of Massachusetts. Then 5 years later, he would announce his first run for the White House.

“I declare my intention to run for President of the United States,” said Romney on Feb. 13, 2007.  

Although he would lose to 2008 GOP nominee Sen. John McCain, Romney became the presidential Republican frontrunner in 2012 — the first member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to head the national ticket.

“I’m sure I’ll avoid some of the mistakes I made last time, but I’m sure I’ll make new ones this time,” said Romney on Feb. 1, 2011.

Those minor gaffes from his 2012 run may have been why Romney came up short on election night.    

“I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader,” Romney said on Nov. 7, 2012.

However, his presidential loss became Utah’s gain. In 2018 longtime Utah Senator Orrin Hatch retired and talked Romney into replacing him.    

“I didn’t want someone who wasn’t really good replacing me. Hopefully, he’ll take the Senate seriously and hopefully, he’ll win, and hopefully he’ll be very good,” said Late Senator Orrin Hatch on Feb. 17, 2018.

That year, Utah voters rallied behind Romney for his return to public office.

“Now I will be only one of 100 United States senators, but I believe that one person doing the right thing at the right time can have a lasting impact,” said Romney on Nov. 7, 2018.

Romney’s mentality to do the right thing led him twice to break party lines in an attempt to convict former U.S. President Donald Trump and to speak out against the Trump supporters’ attack on the U.S. Capitol in 2021.  

“What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States,” said Romney on Jan. 6, 2021.  

That stance created growing disapproval from Republicans at home, and questions about support for Romney’s possible reelection in 2024. Instead, Romney decided Wednesday to let a new generation either carry on or replace his legacy in office.