Republican Romney calls Trump ‘a fraud,’ creates pathway to contested convention
DETROIT – Reuters
REUTERS photoFormer U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney attacked 2016 Republican front-runner Donald Trump as “a fraud” on March 3 and urged primary voters to keep the outspoken New York billionaire from getting the nomination, paving the way for possible horse trading at a party convention in July.
In an unusually harsh speech, party elder Romney warned that former reality TV star Trump would likely lose to possible Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 election if he becomes the Republican nominee.
Trump’s rise has split the Republican Party between mainstream figures like Romney, and Trump supporters who complain the party does not reflect their concerns about illegal immigration, the slow economic recovery and what they see as America’s diminishing role in the world.
That split widened when Romney, the party nominee in 2012, urged Republican primary voters to vote tactically in different states to back Trump’s opponents and block his path to the nomination.
“Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” said Romney, 68, who did not endorse any candidate.
“I would vote for Marco Rubio in Florida, for John Kasich in Ohio, and for Ted Cruz or whichever one of the other two contenders has the best chance of beating Mr. Trump in a given state,” he said. Rubio is a U.S. senator from Florida and Kasich is the Ohio governor.
Meanwhile, Trump came under withering attack from rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz at a debate on March 3 as the party’s establishment sought to unite behind a last-ditch anti-Trump effort.
The Fox News Channel debate became a mud-throwing fracas from the outset with tensions mounting over the New York billionaire’s ascendancy and his drive to be the presumptive nominee should he win nominating contests in Florida and Ohio on March 15.
When the Fox questioners showed Trump changing his mind on a variety of topics from the Iraq war to whether to allow Syrian refugees into the United States, Trump shrugged. “You have to show a degree of flexibility,” he said.
U.S. senators Rubio, of Florida, and Cruz, of Texas, questioned Trump’s immigration policy and his use of foreign workers at his exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Cruz, 45, demanded Trump release the audiotape of an off-the-record session he had with New York Times editorial writers on Jan. 5.
Cruz and others have suggested that in the session Trump might have been more flexible on immigration than in public statements insisting he would build a wall between the United States and Mexico and deport 11 million illegal immigrants.
Trump refused to release the tape but said he would be flexible, for instance, on the height of the wall. He also abruptly changed his position on foreign workers, saying more of them who are highly skilled should be allowed to remain in the United States.
Rubio, 44, pressed Trump on the foreign workers he has imported to work at his Palm Beach resort, jobs he said could go to Americans. Trump said the workers were for a short November-to-March season.
Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly, who famously clashed with Trump at the first Republican debate last August, generated a fresh exchange in pressing Trump to explain his involvement with Trump University, a now-defunct online education company that has faced lawsuits from people who feel they paid out money for Trump U and got nothing in return.