PARK CITY, Utah — Mitt Romney laid into the large and rambunctious group of 2016 Republican candidates here on Saturday, arguing that they deserved a share of blame for the rise of Donald Trump.Romney certainly understands what his Republican party stands for... losing. You can be certain of one thing come November, that Romney will be completely incapable of articulating his own personal responsibility for the outcome.
During a question-and-answer session with CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer before around 250 Republican donors gathered here for the Romney-hosted Experts and Enthusiasts summit, the former Massachusetts governor said this year’s group of primary candidates misplayed their hand. By spending months attacking each other and ignoring Trump, he argued, they made a severe tactical error that allowed Trump — who Romney has criticized as a "con man" and a "fraud" — to escape unharmed.
Their biggest failure was attacking each other and not the frontrunner,” Romney said. “Just politically, I thought that move was not right for them.”
Romney reserved particular scorn for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who Romney endorsed late in the primary process. The Texas senator, he pointed out, spent extensive time during the campaign praising Trump. He also said Ohio Gov. John Kasich had divided the anti-Trump vote by remaining in the race long after it had become clear he didn’t have a realistic pathway to the nomination — a message he said had relayed personally to the Ohio governor. And Romney chided Right to Rise, the $100 million-plus Jeb Bush super PAC that spent heavily to tear down Bush rivals other than Trump.
“I thought it was an extremely large mistake on their part,” he said of Right to Rise.
Romney, though, credited Trump with waging a politically savvy primary campaign. “He played it extremely well,” he said, noting that the New York businessman had tapped into a deep vein of voter frustration. “It was a very effective strategy.”
As he has on previous occasions, Romney warned that a Trump presidency could have disastrous repercussions for the country. But on Saturday, the former governor showed emotion. In explaining why he’d decided to come out so forcefully against the party’s presumptive nominee — and at a time when many GOP leaders are urging unity — Romney appeared to tear up.
Many of the things Trump says, such as his criticism of a federal judge because of his Mexican heritage, just couldn’t go unanswered, Romney said. “Seeing this just breaks your heart."
Going forward, Romney said he didn’t intend to regularly insert himself into the campaign. But he would speak out if Trump said something he disagreed with.
When Blitzer pressed Romney on his future plans, he revealed that he once thought that, had a candidate such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, or Bush won the White House, he could have held an administration role. With Trump and Hillary Clinton as the nominees, he joked that a cabinet post was now unlikely.
But he hinted that there’s a role he’s anxious to embrace: that of a former GOP leader who will help to rebuild his party following an historically divisive election.
“I do believe, after November, I’m going to be involved in articulating what the Republican Party stands for.”