Romney calls Trump ‘phony,’ urges Republicans to shun him

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Mar 04, 2016 09:46 IST
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s reluctance to denounce a Ku Klux Klan leader is likely to cost him a lot of minority votes. (AFP/File photo)

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, and Donald Trump savaged each other in a war of words Thursday that reaffirmed a growing rift between the party leadership and the frontrunner.

Romney called Trump a “conman”, “phony” and a “fraud” and someone least prepared for the presidency and questioned his policies and personality with uncharacteristic harshness.

John McCain, another Republican presidential nominee, joined Romney saying he shared those concerns and hopes Americans think hard about who they want as Commander-in-Chief.

Trump lashed back belittling Romney as a “failed candidate”, for his defeat at the hands of Barack Obama in 2012, and said the then nominee had “begged” him for his endorsement.

Stunned by the ferocity of Romney’s remarks, The New York Times said it “is unheard of in the modern Republican Party for mainstream leaders to savage” their leading candidate.

The Romney-Trump spat is likely to dominate the Republican presidential debate later on Thursday the last before a bunch of states hold their nominating contests on Saturday.

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The rift is what is dominating the conversation. An influential group of Republicans is even considering a third-party candidate to run against their own party’s official nominee, if it’s Trump.

And Trump it appears likely to be, as it is becoming abundantly clear to every one, specially after his resounding victory in the Super Tuesday contests when he swept seven of the 11 races.

His popularity with Republican voters remains undiminished by the party leadership’s antipathy towards him, a situation that some have called a “hostile takeover” of the party by Trump.

The leadership fears that a Trump candidacy could cost them the White House and control of the two chambers of congress, that the party controls now, in elections later in the year.

Romney laid out the concerns in a lengthy and detailed speech, critiquing Trump’s policies and personality calling him “a phony, a fraud” and a “con man, a fake”.

About Trump’s economic plan Romney, the few details the frontrunner has revealed, shows “he would be very bad for American workers and for American families”.

On foreign policy, Romney said Trump’s “bombast has alarmed allies”, he has alienated Muslims and his suggestion to let ISIS bring down Bashar al-Assad was a “ridiculous” idea.

Romney went on to urge Republican voters to support anyone but Trump. “If the other candidates can find some common ground, I believe we can nominate a person who can win the general election and who will represent the values and policies of conservatism. Given the current delegate selection process, that means that I’d vote for Marco Rubio in Florida and for John Kasich in Ohio and for Ted Cruz or whichever one of the other two contenders has the best chance of beating Mr. Trump in a given state.”

The 2012 nominee was remarkably harsh about Trump’s personality — “the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics”.

Referring to Trump’s nickname, The Donald, Romney said he is the only person with an article before his name, “and it was not because he had attributes we admired”.

Trump was given the name The Donald by his first wife, Ivana Trump, who has attributed it to her poor command on the language as a recent immigrant then, a Czech.

Trump, who is fine with the nickname, responded to Romney’s attacks calling him a “failed candidate”, referring to Romney defeat at the hands of President Barack Obama in 2012.

Trump had endorsed Romney then, but he said Thursday Romney had begged him for it. “He was begging for my endorsement. I could have said, ‘Mitt, drop to your knees’.”

The exchange was bitter and another affirmation of the deep schism between the party leadership and the frontrunner that has dominated the Republican race in recent days.

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