Mitt Romney opened his speech by citing Ronald Reagan’s argument before the 1964 election that it was “a time for choosing” — previewing his expected criticism of GOP front-runner Donald Trump by saying he planned to look inward within his own party.
“I’m no Ronald Reagan, and this is a different moment in time, but I believe with all my heart and soul that we face another time of choosing — one that will have profound consequences for the Republican Party and more importantly, for our country,” he said.
Romney wasted no time taking direct aim at Trump.
“On the other hand, if we make improvident choices, the bright horizon I foresee will never materialize,” he said. “Let me put it plainly, if we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.”
Romney called Trump’s policy proposals “flimsy, at best,” and said he’d trigger a trade war, drive up the deficit and lead the nation into a recession.
“Even though Donald Trump has offered very few specific economic plans, what he has said is enough to know that he would be very bad for American workers and American families,” he said.
“Now I know you say, ‘Isn’t he a huge business success, and doesn’t he know what he’s talking about?’ No he isn’t, and no he doesn’t. His bankruptcies have crushed small businesses and their workers. He inherited his business; he didn’t create it.”
Romney offered praise for the economic plans of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“One of these men should be our nominee,” he said.
Romney cast Trump’s foreign policy proposals as “recklessness in the extreme,” pointing to his suggestion on “60 Minutes” that the United States should let ISIS take out Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
“Now Donald Trump tells us he is very, very smart. I’m afraid that when it comes to foreign policy, he is very, very not-smart,” he said.
Romney said that “dishonestly is Donald Trump’s hallmark,” pointing to his “bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.”
“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.
He 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 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
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.
Clinton gets blasted, too
Romney believes that the current GOP frontrunner “relishes any poll that reflects what he thinks of himself.” General election polls, however, say “that he will lose to Hillary Clinton.”
According to Romney, nominating Trump to represent the Republican Party will only secure Clinton’s victory in November.
Romney deems Clinton “untrustworthy” and “dishonest.” He will tout Clinton’s performance as secretary of state and argue that she “compromised our national secrets.”
The 2012 nominee is not expected to make any other announcements in his speech today. Romney “understand(s) the anger Americans feel today” but hopes that such anger is “transformed into energy directed for good.”