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Romney urges voters to shun ‘phony’ Trump

The Republican party elder warned that Trump would likely lose to possible Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton

Published: Updated:

Former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney attacked 2016 Republican front-runner Donald Trump as “a fraud” on Thursday and urged primary voters to keep the outspoken New York billionaire from getting the nomination, paving the way for possible horse trading at a party convention in July.

In an unusually harsh speech, party elder Romney warned that former reality TV star Trump would likely lose to possible Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 election if he becomes the Republican nominee.

Trump’s rise has split the Republican Party between mainstream figures like Romney, and Trump supporters who complain the party does not reflect their concerns about illegal immigration, the slow economic recovery and what they see as America’s diminishing role in the world.

That split widened when Romney, the party nominee in 2012, urged Republican primary voters to vote tactically in different states to back Trump’s opponents and block his path to the nomination.

“Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” said Romney, 68, who did not endorse any candidate.

“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,” he said. Rubio is a U.S. senator from Florida and Kasich is the Ohio governor.

By calling for targeted voting, Romney was setting up the possibility of a contested convention when Republicans gather in Cleveland in mid-July to select their nominee for the November election to succeed Democratic President Barack Obama. That could create a pathway to deny Trump the 1,237 delegates needed for nomination.

The last Republican convention to go beyond one ballot was in 1948 when Thomas Dewey was nominated.

“I think the governor is just being realistic about where things stand and advocating a potential strategy that could stop the Trump nomination,” said former Romney spokesman Ryan Williams.