Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney delivered a scorching indictment of Donald Trump on Thursday, calling him a phony, a fraud, a misogynist and a bully who threatens America's future.
Trump responded to Romney's scathing critique at a campaign rally a few hours later, spending the better part of his campaign speech defending himself and criticizing Romney.
"I believe with all my heart and soul that we face another time for choosing, one that will have profound consequences for the Republican Party and more importantly, for the country," Romney said in Utah at the Hinckley Institute of Politics Forum. "His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill."
Romney then went on an epic take down of the Republican frontrunner, point-by-point, issue-by-issue, critiquing his business acumen, the amount he's worth, his ability to understand foreign policy and his temperament and his honesty.
On his businesses: "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."
On foreign policy: "Donald Trump tells us that he is very, very smart. I'm afraid that when it comes to foreign policy he is very, very not smart."
On his character: "Dishonesty is Trump's hallmark: He claimed that he had spoken clearly and boldly against going into Iraq. Wrong, he spoke in favor of invading Iraq. He said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11. Wrong, he saw no such thing. He imagined it. His is not the temperament of a stable, thoughtful leader."
On his wealth: "I predict that there are more bombshells in his tax returns. I predict that he doesn't give much if anything to the disabled and to our veterans. ... And I predict that despite his promise to do so, first made over a year ago, he will never ever release his tax returns. Never. Not the returns under audit, not even the returns that are no longer being audited. He has too much to hide."
On his morality: "Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants, he calls for the use of torture and for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit first amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss."
And then there was this: "Donald Trump says he admires Vladimir Putin, while has called George W. Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping good."
At his previously scheduled campaign rally in Portland, Maine, Trump responded to a litany of Romney's criticisms. Trump said he was going to address Romney's speech "quickly" because it was "irrelevant," but he then spent twenty minutes responding to Romney or defending himself.
He called Romney "nasty," a "lightweight," a "choke artist," and a "failed candidate."
"I thought he was a better person than that," Trump said.
He also repeatedly noted that Romney "begged" for Trump's endorsement in 2012.
"I could have said, 'Mitt drop to your knees,' and he would have dropped to his knees," Trump said.
Romney didn't address his endorsement in his speech but did so on Twitter a few hours later.
Romney didn't endorse one of the other three candidates, but he did call on voters to vote for anyone but Trump, and said Ohioans should back Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Floridians should get behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
He said that a Trump nomination would ensure Democrat Hillary Clinton wins the White House.
"A person so untrustworthy and dishonest as Hillary Clinton must not become president. But a Trump nomination enables her victory," Romney said.
Trump also offered a pre-buttal to Romney's speech, slamming the former Republican presidential nominee on Twitter for the past 24 hours.
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Trump accused Romney of "just trying to stay relevant," acknowledging the attacks against him while stressing he would unify, not divide, the Republican Party.
"Now, I'm being hit from 19 different angles right now... but ultimately I get along with people," Trump said. "If the time comes and when... who knows what's going to happen, but I will be able to get along. And we will have a much bigger party, we will have a much more inclusive party."
A senior adviser to Donald Trump, Dan Scavino, also responded to Romney's speech on Twitter.
Romney's pointed attack on Trump comes two days after the frontrunner won seven of the 11 states on Super Tuesday. It also comes as efforts by conservatives trying to take down Trump are facing a sense of urgency.
"Here's what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. 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," Romney said.
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