Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had some harsh words for 2016 candidate Donald Trump at the 7th annual Washington Ideas Forum on Wednesday.
The ex-Massachusetts governor pledged that he would be supporting his party’s choice for president, but added “I don’t think that’s going to be Donald Trump.”
“My party has historically nominated someone who’s a mainstream conservative and someone who has a foundation in foreign policy,” Romney said. He went on to call comments Trump made on “60 Minutes” regarding ISIS “both absurd and dangerous.”
The very public rebuke offers further proof that there is no love lost between Romney and the real estate mogul, whose endorsement he coveted during the last presidential election. In February 2012, Romney won Trump’s approval over his GOP rival Newt Gingrich, something the then-reality star said he pursued “very aggressively.”
“There are some things that you just can’t imagine happening in your life,” Romney told reporters at the time. “This is one of them.”
Romney later took heat for appearing to validate Trump’s birther rhetoric. Trump had spent much of the previous year questioning the validity of President Obama’s birth certificate, and even his academic record. However, Romney stuck by Trump, even deploying him to record an anti-Rick Santorum robocall in the midst of the Michigan primary race.
The Obama campaign also capitalized on the Trump connection. They used a photo of Romney with Trump’s private jet featured prominently in the background to highlight their contention that the Republican nominee’s tax and economic policies were out of touch with everyday Americans.
When Romney went down to defeat that fall, Trump was swift to fault the candidate. In numerous press interviews, and now on the campaign trail, Trump has lamented that the financial investment he made in Romney’s campaign didn’t pay off.
“He choked. Something happened to him in the last month. He had that election won,” Trump said in January. Trump also would take “full credit” for Romney’s eventual decision not to seek the 2016 nomination. Earlier this month, Trump argued that when Romney ran for president “millions of people that are Republicans and conservative Republicans and evangelicals and people that I have a great relationship with, they sat home for some reason.” He went on to say GOP voters weren’t “energized” by Romney’s candidacy.
Meanwhile, Romney has been stepping up his criticism of the new GOP front-runner. He criticized the candidate’s controversial claim last summer that undocumented Mexican immigrants are “killers” and “rapists.”
“I think he made a severe error in saying what he did about Mexican-Americans,” Romney told CNN in July. “And it’s unfortunate.” Romney also joined most mainstream Republicans in condemning Trump’s suggestion that Sen. John McCain, a victim of torture during his time serving in Vietnam, may not be a war hero.
Some pundits have speculated that Romney way even want to enter the 2016 race, if for no other reason than to stop Trump. A senior member of his 2012 team reportedly told New York Magazine this month, “Mitt wants to run. He never stopped wanting to run.”