(CNN) — Mitt Romney delivered a sweeping broadside against Donald Trump on Thursday, laying into the Republican presidential front-runner with a sharper attack than any of the party’s 2016 contenders have made against the billionaire business mogul.
“Here’s what I know: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” Romney said. “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing members of the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.”
Cruz, Kasich and Rubio
Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, attempted to play the role of party elder during a speech at the University of Utah. He said any of the party’s other candidates — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — would be suitable choices.
After the remarks, Kasich tweeted, “Well said, @MittRomney.”
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) March 3, 2016
He said that “dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark,” pointing to his “bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.”
Despite his scathing speech, it’s unlikely that such an act will dissuade any of Trump’s loyal core of supporters. So far, even Trump’s most eyebrow raising antics have been meet with swelling support.
National security threat
Nonetheless, Romney lambasted Trump on foreign policy, casting him as “very, very not-smart” in his comments about allowing ISIS to take out Syria’s leadership and for proposing the slaughter of the families of terrorists.
“Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less-than-noble purposes. He creates scapegoats in Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. He calls for the killing of innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protestors,” he said, adding that Trump would trample First Amendment protections.
Romney mocked Trump’s failed business ventures, pointing to his airline, his casino bankruptcies and more, and attacked his sexual indiscretions, too.
“There’s a dark irony in his boasts of his sexual exploits during the Vietnam war, while at the same time, John McCain, who he has mocked, was in prison being tortured,” he said.
McCain also weighed in, saying he agrees with Romney and a group of conservative national security officials who issued a letter warning against Trump on Wednesday.
“At a time when our world has never been more complex or more in danger, as we watch the threatening actions of a neo-imperial Russia, an assertive China, an expansionist Iran, an insane North Korean ruler, and terrorist movements that are metastasizing across the Middle East and Africa, I want Republican voters to pay close attention to what our party’s most respected and knowledgeable leaders and national security experts are saying about Mr. Trump,” McCain said in a statement.
Romney lambasted Trump’s assertions that he opposed the war in Iraq and saw Muslims celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey.
“He’s not of the temperament of the kind of stable, thoughtful person we need as leader. His imagination must not be married to real power.”
Romney even made an effort to pre-but Trump’s response to his speech.
“Watch, by the way, how he responds to our speech today. Will he talk about our policy differences, or will he respond with every low-road insult?” Romney said.
Romney predicted Trump’s exchange about white supremacists with CNN’s Jake Tapper last Sunday on “State of the Union” would damage him in the general election.
“The video of the infamous Tapper-Trump exchange on the Ku Klux Klan will play 100,000 times on cable and who knows how many billion times on social media,” he said.
He called on Trump to release his tax returns, predicting another “bombshell.”
“I predict that he doesn’t give much of anything to our disabled, to our veterans,” he said.
He called on Trump to also ask The New York Times to release the recording of an off-the-record conversation he had with the newspaper’s editorial board.
Trump fires back
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Even before Romney spoke, Trump kicked off an anti-Romney social media tirade late Wednesday night, posting a Facebook video accusing the former Massachusetts governor of being soft on cornerstone conservative issues, including immigration and abortion.
Then he lambasted Romney on social media Thursday morning ahead of the speech.
The business mogul, who himself has changed positions on abortion, continued hitting Romney and the Republican establishment Thursday morning in a series of tweets.
“I have brought millions of people into the Republican Party, while the Dems are going down. Establishment wants to kill this movement!” Trump tweeted.
The GOP front-runner also tweeted he is the only GOP candidate capable of beating Hillary Clinton.
“I am the only one who can beat Hillary Clinton. I am not a Mitt Romney, who doesn’t know how to win. Hillary wants no part of “Trump”,” he tweeted.
Trump noted that Romney had badly sought Trump’s backing when he ran in 2012.
“Why did Mitt Romney BEG me for my endorsement four years ago?” he said.
Trump continued his anti-Romney offensive on morning television Thursday, calling Romney’s 2012 presidential bid “one of the worst presidential campaigns in history” on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“The biggest story in politics isn’t Mitt Romney, it’s that the GOP is getting millions and millions of people to vote for me,” Trump said.