- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2016

Mitt Romney’s decision to take on Donald Trump, calling him a “phony” and asking fellow Republicans to boycott the GOP presidential front-runner in the election booths this spring, was met with mixed reaction from the Republican crowd gathered at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

“If Mitt Romney had half as much passion in 2012, when he was taking on the policies of Barack Obama I think he might have become the president,” said Matt Schlapp, the president of the American Conservative Union, who puts on CPAC. “It’s strange to see people all of a sudden become animated when they are against somebody that 40 percent of the voters, at least in the Republican primaries, seem to be standing for.”

Mr. Schlapp said Republicans should be trying to woo Mr. Trump’s base and get them active in the conservative movement rather than shun them away.

“Let’s go grab these new Republicans and these new voters, let’s bring them in as part of our movement,” he said. “Let’s make sure we all come together in November.”

Mr. Romney, whose bid for the White House ultimately failed in 2012, is expected to take the stage in Utah Thursday morning to hold a press conference in an effort to blunt Mr. Trump’s momentum. Mr. Trump has claimed credit for the massive Republican turnout this election cycle, where independents and Democrats are turning out in stunning numbers.

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

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Mr. Romney is dialing up his rhetoric against the front-runner after Mr. Trump won the majority of Super Tuesday contests and is holding a delegate lead. Last week, Mr. Romney demanded Mr. Trump release his tax returns and over the weekend issued a sharply worded tweet over Mr. Trump’s seemingly refusal to denounce the KKK on the Sunday morning talk shows.

Mr. Trump will be holding a campaign rally in Maine at roughly the same time as Mr. Romney’s speech.

The former presidential candidate is just one voice in a growing chorus of conservative groups who are asking Republicans to shun Mr. Trump.

The Club for Growth has launched a $1.5 million advertisement buy in Florida against the real-estate mogul and claim their anti-Trump ads that ran in Texas and Iowa helped Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas win those states.

“We believe that if people hear that through the ads — that Donald Trump bullies around the little guy, that he’s not a conservative on fiscal policy, it makes a difference,” said Doug Sachtleben, a spokesman for Club for Growth, at the CPAC conference on Thursday.

Mr. Sachtleben said his political advocacy group likes both Mr. Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida – who are running second and third to Mr. Trump. If Mr. Trump wins the Republican nomination, Mr. Sachtleben warns of Republican Senate losses and the Supreme Court.

“The most immediate concern is the Senate and the down ballot candidates,” Mr. Sachtleben said. “We endorsed a lot of candidates including Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, and we think the challenge will be on those guys, with the top of the ticket being Donald Trump. Then if the Senate is at stake, then the Supreme Court becomes a crucial issue.

“We don’t know what a President Trump would really do because he’s unclear on policy on a whole bunch of issues that affect average working Americans,” he said.

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