Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called on GOP voters to do anything in their power to stop Donald Trump from becoming their party’s nominee, saying they should vote for whomever is best positioned to defeat Trump in their state.
With just weeks to prevent Trump from locking up the nomination, Romney has emerged as one of the loudest voices warning against Trump’s rise, declaring him “a phony, a fraud,” in a 20-minute address at the University of Utah. The no-holds-barred effort represents the GOP establishment’s last stand to halt Trump’s rise.
“His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University, “Romney said. “He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.”
Endorsing a strategy to keep Trump from securing the 1,237 delegates required to win the nomination—but which doesn’t provide anyone else with that figure either—Romney joined the chorus of Republicans seeing a contested convention as the only way to prevent Trump from becoming the standard-bearer of the party.
Read More: Read Mitt Romney’s Speech About Donald Trump
“I believe we can nominate a person who can win the general election and who will represent the values and policies of conservatism,” Romney said. “Given the current delegate selection process, this means that 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.”
Lambasting Trump’s policy positions as recession-inducing and rewarding “evil,” Romney warned that even a Trump nomination—let alone a presidency—could imperil the nation’s future prosperity.
“Donald Trump tells us that he is very, very smart,” Romney said. “I’m afraid that when it comes to foreign policy he is very, very not smart.”
Romney’s criticism was also personal, seeking to refute the notion that Trump is a successful businessman—one of the key underpinnings of his support.
“But wait, you say, isn’t he a huge business success that knows what he’s talking about,” Romney asked derisively. “No he isn’t. His bankruptcies have crushed small businesses and the men and women who worked for them. He inherited his business, he didn’t create it. And what ever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there’s Trump Magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks, and Trump Mortgage? A business genius he is not.”
Romney’s comments were designed to offer a model for Trump’s presidential rivals on how to take on the bombastic front-runner, without shame or second thoughts.
Romney, who famously praised Trump in 2012 when the businessman endorsed his run, resorted to using many of the same tactics he was victimized by Democrats with in his effort to taking on Trump. The former nominee warned of unfounded “bombshells” in Trump’s tax returns and called on him to release audio from an off-the-record conversation with the New York Times about his immigration plan.
After Romney’s speech, 2008 presidential nominee John McCain issued a statement saying that he agrees with Romney and a recent open letter signed by more than 50 conservative foreign policy experts, including former homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff, former deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick.
“I share the concerns about Donald Trump that my friend and former Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, described in his speech today,” McCain said in the statement. “I would also echo the many concerns about Mr. Trump’s uninformed and indeed dangerous statements on national security issues that have been raised by 65 Republican defense and foreign policy leaders.”