Former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee and current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump are continuing their war. On Friday, March 18, 2016, that war escalated as Romney announced he would vote for Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the Utah Caucuses on March 22. Romney’s announcement was his latest action in the Republican establishment’s attempt to deprive Trump of the GOP nomination even though he is leading in the delegate count. Trump was not going to let Romney get away with it and at a Salt Lake City rally on Friday evening, Trump questioned Romney’s religion and Mormon faith.
Trump tried to as CNN put it question Romney’s faith pitting him against Utah’s Mormon majority. Trump said at the rally, “Do I love the Mormons? I have many friends that live in Salt Lake City — and by the way, Mitt Romney is not one of them. Are you sure he’s a Mormon? Are we sure?” Trump’s crowd loudly applauded his remarks.
Trump touted his relationship with Mormons, which includes friends and employees. Trump also continued his attacks questioning Romney support of the other two GOP candidates. Trump said,
“He’s out campaigning with (Ohio Gov. John) Kasich and then he endorses Cruz. People say — are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
Trump also attacked Romney as a failure for the GOP in 2012 losing to President Barack Obama. Trump used his favorite insult saying, “He’s a choke artist, I can’t believe… He choked, he choked, it was so sad, he should have beaten Obama we wouldn’t be working, I could be back right now, I could be back working in New York and doing my deals and having fun and being with my family.”
This is third time Trump has attacked and questioned another Republican’s faith. Trump challenged fellow opponents religion including Ben Carson’s Seventh-Day Adventist faith, and Cruz, who is a Southern Baptist. Since then Carson suspended his campaign, endorsed Trump and is now campaigning for him.
Romney made a speech earlier this month warning Republicans against Trump; he has become the GOP frontrunner’s enemy and another de facto opponent. Questioning Romney’s faith is especially damaging to his credibility with Mormons and other Christians since he was reluctant to discuss his faith during his two runs for the presidency in 2008 and 2012 and other Christians question Mormonism enough.
On Friday afternoon, March 18 Romney wrote a post on Facebook announcing his decision to vote for Cruz. Romney declared, “This week, in the Utah nominating caucus, I will vote for Senator Ted Cruz, and I encourage others to do so as well, so that we can have an open convention and nominate a Republican.”
Continuing Romney explained the reason; he will vote for Cruz, to force a contested convention. Romney wrote, “The only path that remains to nominate a Republican rather than Mr. Trump is to have an open convention. At this stage, the only way we can reach an open convention is for Senator Cruz to be successful in as many of the remaining nominating elections as possible.”
Although Romney said he is voting for Cruz, he did not endorse him. Last week Romney campaigned with Ohio Governor John Kasich in his home state before the primaries last Tuesday, March 15. The strategy worked, Kasich won denying Trump a sweep of the night’s nominating contests and Ohio’s 66 delegates. Romney also explained why he is not voting Kasich, “I would have voted for him in Ohio. But a vote for Governor Kasich in future contests makes it extremely likely that Trumpism would prevail.”
Romney’s support is a surprise considering Cruz has targeted Romney during the campaign for losing in 2012 and called him part of the GOP’s “mushy middle.” Cruz tweeted his thanks and later told reporters, “I’ll take that, and take that happily.”
Kasich’s campaign did not take the betrayal well, with chief strategist, John Weaver tweeting, “Good to know Ted Cruz is the establishment, K-Street backed candidate. #HelloStatusQuo.” The Kasich campaign also released an ad featuring Romney campaigning with Kasich in Ohio.
As for Trump’s immediate reaction, he tweeted, “Failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the man who ‘choked’ and let us all down, is now endorsing Lyin’ Ted Cruz. This is good for me!” Trump continued in another tweet, “Going to Salt Lake City, Utah, for a big rally. Lyin’ Ted Cruz should not be allowed to win there – Mormons don’t like LIARS! I beat Hillary.”
Currently, the polls are close in Utah; there are 40 delegates at stake. Romney and much of the Republican establishment are hoping and planning for a contested convention to deny Trump the nomination. If none of the candidates reach the 1,237 delegates necessary to clinch the nomination, then delegates are free to vote whom they want on the convention floor. For Trump to win, he would have to win 53 percent of the delegates in the remaining contests.