Douglas, Arizona — Ted Cruz openly welcomed the backing of Mitt Romney on Friday afternoon, telling reporters at a press conference on the Arizona-Mexico border that Romney’s decision is “pretty darn good.”
“Listen, in my book, when someone says I’m voting for you and I encourage everyone else to vote for you, that’s pretty darn good,” Cruz said, also responding to the absence of an official endorsement by the GOP’s 2012 nominee. “And I’ll take that – and take that happily.”
As Cruz toured parts of the border near Douglas, Arizona, Romney posted on his Facebook page that he would vote for Cruz in Tuesday’s Utah primary in hopes of helping prevent Trump from reaching the 1,237 delegate threshold needed to clinch the Republican nomination before July’s convention.
“I will vote for Senator Cruz and I encourage others to do so as well, so that we can have an open convention and nominate a Republican,” Romney wrote.
But by openly advocating for an open convention, Romney did not shut the door on potentially backing John Kasich or an outside candidate in the event of a contested convention.
The stakes of Romney’s pronouncement are heightened as the Cruz campaign aims to win more than 50 percent of Utah Republicans’ support in the state’s primary next week. If Cruz meets that mark, he will win each of the state’s 40 delegates.
Trump – in a tweet on Friday morning – wrote:
"Going to Salt Lake City, Utah, for a big rally. Lyin' Ted Cruz should not be allowed to win there - Mormons don't like LIARS!"
Cruz, flanked by Rick Perry and local ranchers, suggested Trump “fled” the Utah debate slated for Salt Lake City on Monday.
And he questioned Trump’s stature to diagnose Mormons’ opinions.
“Now I'm sure the [Latter-Day Saints] community appreciates Donald Trump's advice on how to practice their faith,” Cruz said. “I somehow suspect that advice is not grounded in years of study of the faith.”
Cruz addressed reporters for 30 minutes after touring parts of the border and examining fencing that divided Douglas from Agua Prieta, its Mexico counterpart.
"My 5-year-old could climb this in about 3 seconds,” Cruz said while standing next to a barrier a few feet high along with Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels and Arizona House Speaker David Gowan. Dannels also told Cruz there is “constant” traffic through the area.
“Are you all finding a lot of bodies?" Cruz asked Dannels.
"It's so sad,” Dannels responded in acknowledgement.