- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2016

2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Thursday lambasted Donald Trump as a “phony” and a “fraud,” pleading with the party’s voters to deny the front-runner candidate the 2016 nomination.

Mr. Romney warned that giving Mr. Trump the GOP nomination would threaten to put Hillary Clinton in the White House, or worse, give Mr. Trump the presidency and doom the country to trade wars, job loses and ballooning national debt.

“Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” said Mr. Romney in an unprecedented speech in which a former presidential nominee derided the current front-runner for the nomination.

“His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. 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,” Mr. Romney said in the speech at Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

The speech underscored the fear coursing through the GOP establishment that the billionaire real estate mogul and reality TV star is running away with the nomination.

Mr. Romney, who himself is an enormously wealthy businessman, called on Republican voters to vote for any of the other contenders — Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio or Gov. John Kasich — in a bid to stop Mr. Trump from clinching the nomination before the party convention this summer.

He hit Mr. Trump on every front, questioning his business prowess, his treatment of women and his ability to serve as commander in chief or as a role model for American children.

“Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities, the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics,” Mr. Romney said. “We have long referred to him as ‘The Donald.’ He is the only person in America to whom we have added an article before his name. It wasn’t because he had attributes we admired.”

Mr. Trump preemptively struck back at Mr. Romney in anticipation of the attacks.

Mitt Romney is a stiff. He got killed, he got decimated in the election,” the GOP presidential front-runner said on NBC’s “Today” program.

After the speech, Mr. Romney’s intervention in the primary process also fell flat with some activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference underway in Washington.

“I am not real sure why Mitt Romney thinks he has the gravitas in the Republican party anymore to tell the Republicans what they need to be doing. How many times did he lose?” said Ann Eubank, a Cruz supporter and tea-party activist from Alabama at the conference.

Still, Mr. Romney presented a detailed indictment of Mr. Trump’s domestic and foreign policies, as well as his temperament. He checked off virtually every criticism that Democrats, Republicans and the media have hurled at Mr. Trump since the campaign began, from his alleged insult to Muslims to his use of vulgar language on the stump.

The most stinging jabs were directed at Mr. Trump’s claims to be a brilliant businessman and deal-maker.

“You say, isn’t he a huge business success that knows what he’s talking about? No he isn’t,” said Mr. Romney. “His bankruptcies have crushed small businesses and the men and women who worked for them. He inherited his business, he didn’t create it. And what ever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there’s Trump Magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks, and Trump Mortgage? A business genius he is not.”

Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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