Romney blasts Trump as ‘phony’ unworthy of presidency

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SALT LAKE CITY – The Republican Party’s presidential choice for 2012 unleashed a scathing attack Thursday on the frontrunner to claim this year’s nomination in an historic “first” in presidential politics.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney amped up the current GOP Civil War, decrying the dangers posed by a Donald Trump presidency in a widely broadcast speech delivered to students at the University of Utah.

“Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” Romney declared in the 20-minute speech. “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers.”

“I am far from the first to conclude that Donald Trump lacks the temperament” to be president, Romney said. “After all, this is an individual who mocked a disabled reporter, who attributed a reporter’s questions to her menstrual cycle, who mocked a brilliant rival, who happened to be a woman, due to her appearance, who bragged about his marital affairs, and who laces his public speeches with vulgarity.”

Donald Trump says he admires Vladimir Putin, while has called George W. Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping good,” the former Boston business leader said. He described Trump’s “personal qualities” as “bullying,” “greed,” “misogyny” and his “absurd third grade theatrics” to back up his judgment that The Donald isn’t presidential material.

“He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants, he calls for the use of torture and for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists,” Romney said. “He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit first amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.”

Yet after every questionable insult, claim or choice of words, nothing has slowed Trump’s surging popularity and his march to the top of the Republican field after some fifteen primary contests. Immediately after Romney delivered his speech, the focus again turned to Trump, who spoke at an early afternoon rally in Portland, Maine.

“Mitt was a disaster as a candidate,” Trump told a cheering crowd at the event in a harborside hotel. “He let us down. He should have won.”

Trump also commented on endorsing Romney in 2012.

“I could’ve said, ‘Mitt drop to your knees,’ and he would’ve dropped to his knees,” Trump said. “He was begging. He was begging me.”

Trump also talked about a fundraising party he hosted for Romney at one of his hotels. So many people showed up, he said, the carpet was “ruined.”

“This carpet was wiped out and nobody thanked me for the carpet,” Trump said. “Hey, maybe I could send Mitt a bill for carpet ruined?”

Trump went on to describe Romney as “a choke artist.”

As the 2016 campaign season loomed, Trump said Romney contemplated another run. The New Yorker said Romney backed away, reportedly because of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s fundraising prowess and the prospect of trying to defeat him. But then the former reality television star told his fans:

“The real reason he checked out, it wasn’t Jeb – it was because of me,” he said. Trump, who has claimed to have a net worth of $8.7 billion to more than $10 billion, has largely self-funded his campaign.

The candidate, often given to harsh rhetoric, off-color remarks and name-calling, kept his response to Romney relatively low-key. On the night of his Super Tuesday victories, Trump told reporters he was “becoming diplomatic” in dealing with critics in public appearances.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has trailed the remaining field in most primarie, was the first of Trump’s Republican rivals to react publicly to Romney’s words:

Yet Marco Rubio, the Florida Senator vying with Texan colleague Ted Cruz to become the party’s favored alternative to the New York billionaire, seemed oblivious to Romney’s attack in a Twitter post immediately following the governor’s remarks. Instead, he focused on attacking Trump over jobs.

Ahead of Romney’s speech, which he telegraphed with excerpts released earlier, Trump predictably didn’t shy away from responding to what had been billed as a takedown:

Romney, however, took a moment in his speech to remind voters that he is expecting a patented Trump blast of vituperation, saying, “watch how he responds to my speech today.”

“Will he talk about our policy differences or will he attack me with every imaginable low-road insult? This may tell you what you need to know about his temperament, his stability and his suitability to be president.”

The former governor didn’t endorse an alternative choice out of the field of remaining Republican candidates, nor did he announce plans to enter the race himself.

Romney also took a dig at Trump’s ubiquitous red “Make America Great Again” hats:

Romney’s speech came hours ahead of Thursday night’s GOP debate in Detroit, hosted by Fox News. Trump boycotted the last Fox debate but has said he plans to attend this one.