TIME politics

Here’s What Mitt Romney Said About Donald Trump in 2012

As Romney prepares to take aim at Trump, the tables have turned

When former Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney speaks on Thursday on the topic of Donald Trump, his message will be pretty much the opposite of an endorsement: according to advance reports, he’ll say that Trump is a “fraud” who is “playing the American public for suckers.”

That’s a far cry from what Romney said about Trump back in February of 2012.

At that point, Trump—who had previously made waves by questioning President Obama’s citizenship and publicly toyed with the idea of a run for president—officially endorsed Romney’s campaign. “Mitt is tough, he’s sharp, he’s smart,” Trump said. According to reports at the time, the Romney campaign had actively pursued the endorsement.

Romney’s opponents played the endorsement as a sign that he of the “47%” was even further from the people than voters already thought but, as TIME pointed out back then, it was actually a win for the candidate. Trump was already an appealing figure to many Republican voters, and was—despite his wealth—already capable of reaching a populist audience that might have been turned off by Romney.

Some of the themes from Trump’s sober and concise endorsement of the candidate will ring true to those following the current presidential race, but on Thursday it’s perhaps more interesting to look at Romney’s response to the endorsement. The former Massachusetts governor began with a statement that could be read very differently in retrospect (“There are some things you just can’t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them.”), but his praise for Trump was generally effusive.

“Donald Trump has shown an extraordinary ability to understand how our economy works,” Romney said, citing Trump’s record as a job creator. And, he concluded, “it means a great deal to me to have the endorsement of Mr. Trump.”

Read TIME’s 2011 take on Donald Trump’s presidential potential: Will the Donald Really Run for President?

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