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WASHINGTON — On the night in 2018 that Utah elected Mitt Romney to the U.S. Senate, Romney urged Joe Biden to run for president, according to a new book.
"You have to run," Romney told Biden.
The exchange is detailed in the upcoming book "The Long Alliance: The Imperfect Union of Joe Biden and Barack Obama" by Gabriel Debenedetti, a copy of which was obtained by The Guardian.
Debenedetti is a national correspondent for New York Magazine covering politics and national affairs.
Romney delivered a scathing speech aimed at fellow Republican Donald Trump in 2016, calling the then-presidential candidate "a phony, a fraud."
After he took office in 2019, Romney continued to call out Trump on various issues, including saying the president has a "relaxed relationship with the truth," regarding the 2020 election. Romney twice voted to convict Trump in impeachment trials.
Romney and Biden apparently talked on the phone on election night in 2018.
"At one point (Biden) connected with Mitt Romney who'd been easily elected to the Senate that night as a rare Trump-opposing Republican. They were warm as Biden cheered Romney's win," according to the book.
"Then Obama's old rival got to the point: You have to run," Romney said.
Romney's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the book's assertion.
In a note on sourcing, Debenedetti said his book is "primarily the product of hundreds of interviews" with "colleagues, aides, rivals, confidants, allies and eyewitnesses from every stage" of Obama and Biden's careers since 2003, The Guardian reported.
"When someone's words are rendered in italics, that indicates an approximation based on the memories of sources who did not recall exact wordings," Debenedetti wrote.
Interestingly, Biden encouraged Romney to run for the Senate in 2017.
"By the way, you should run for Senate," Biden told Romney at his annual E2 Summit in Park City.
The audience for their exchange, which was closed to the news media, applauded Biden's suggestion, Jason Chaffetz, a Utah GOP congressman at the time who attended the summit, told the Deseret News after the meeting. Romney, he said, "just smiled" and offered no response.
At the time, Romney had been touted as a candidate for the seat held by the late Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch who was considering retirement.
Romney and Biden squared off in the 2012 presidential race, when Romney topped the GOP presidential ticket and Biden ran as President Barack Obama's vice president.
You have to run.
–Sen. Mitt Romney, speaking to Joe Biden in 2016, according to author Gabriel Debenedetti
But Chaffetz said Romney and Biden encouraged each other "to continue in the public arena" because they "recognize we need good people in government," regardless of party.
"Both gentlemen were very complimentary of each other," said Chaffetz, now a Fox News contributor. "I think they get along and have deep respect for each other, so I think it was a natural complement."
Romney has both praised and condemned the Biden administration for the past two years.
He supported Biden's U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, and has worked across party lines on major legislation, including the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. He also helped negotiate and pass a gun safety bill that Biden signed on the heels of several mass shootings.
At the same time, Romney called on the president to "ditch his woke advisers" and surround himself with people who want to get the economy working again amid record inflation. He also condemned Biden for wanting to get rid of the Senate filibuster to pave the way for sweeping voting rights reform.