WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Donald Trump wasted no time in responding to Mitt Romney’s blistering attack on him Thursday afternoon.
Romney warned Republicans Thursday morning to do whatever they can to nominate someone besides Trump, saying the current front-runner lacks the temperament and the integrity to be president.
Speaking to an audience at the University of Utah, Romney said that if Republicans choose Trump to be their presidential nominee, “the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.”
Romney said, “Dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark.”
“Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” he said. “He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.”
In his remarks, the former Massachusetts governor argued that Trump’s campaign promises “are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”
That’s a reference to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s fraud case against Trump, alleging that Trump University was unlicensed since it began operating in 2005 and promised lessons with real estate experts hand-picked by Trump, only one of whom had ever met him.
“Frankly, the only serious policy proposals that deal with the broad range of national challenges we confront, come today from Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich. One of these men should be our nominee,” Romney said.
He asserted that the billionaire real estate mogul’s domestic policies “would lead to recession” and said his foreign policies “would make America and the world less safe.”
“But you say, ‘Wait, wait, wait, isn’t he a huge business success? Doesn’t he know what he’s talking about?’ No they aren’t and no he doesn’t,” Romney exclaimed.
Romney also said that a Trump nomination would enable Democrat Hillary Clinton to win the presidency.
“A person so untrustworthy and dishonest as Hillary Clinton must not become president. But a Trump nomination enables her victory,” he said.
Trump responded Thursday afternoon at a rally in Portland, Maine.
“Look, Mitt is a failed candidate. He failed. He failed horribly,” Trump said.
Trump said that in 2012 Romney was “begging for for my endorsement,” so much so he could have said, “‘Mitt, drop to your knees.’ He would have dropped to his knees.”
“The guy ran one of the worst campaigns in the history of modern politics,” Trump said.
Trump said Romney proved he’s a “choke artist” when he lost the 2012 presidential race to Barack Obama. He adds that Romney declined to run a third time this year because he was afraid of Trump.
Trump adds that he’s made more money than Romney.
Romney shot back at Trump on Twitter following those comments.
“If Trump had said 4 years ago the things he says today about the KKK, Muslims, Mexicans, disabled, I would NOT have accepted his endorsement,” Romney tweeted.
CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reports that Trump has amassed 324 delegates so far, to Cruz’s 230 and Rubio’s 111.
On Wednesday, Trump released an attack video on his Facebook targeting Romney, showing him flip-flopping on issues such as immigration, health care, abortion, the TARP bailouts and global warming.
Romney’s broadside comes amid increasing restiveness within the GOP establishment over the increasing likelihood that he could soon garner sufficient delegates to clinch the party’s presidential nomination.
Trump went after Romney last month, calling him a “fool” after he insinuated a possible “bombshell” in Trump’s tax returns.
Meanwhile, Rubio is expected to step up attacks on Trump during a debate Thursday night, especially over his newly released health care plan that includes repealing Obamacare, CBS2’s Mary Calvi reported.
Rubio is still fighting to become the biggest alternative to the front-runner.
“If we choose Donald Trump as our nominee, we will lose in November,” he said.
But Cruz urged other candidates to drop out of the race.
“If you’ve been supporting Ben Carson or John Kasich or Marco Rubio, all good honorable men, we welcome you to our team,” he said.
Carson withdrew from the debate on Wednesday. Following the results of Super Tuesday, the retired neurosurgeon said he sees no path forward to the nomination.
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