Donald Trump questioned the religious beliefs of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Friday, asking the crowd at a rally in Utah whether he was an actual Mormon.
“I have many friends that live in Salt Lake. I have a lot of friends … By the way, Mitt Romney is not one of them,” Trump said. “Did he choke? Did this guy choke? He’s a choke artist … Are you sure he’s a Mormon? Are we sure? He choked. He choked. It was so sad. He should have beaten Obama.”
Trump said on Sunday that he was joking.
Romney is a practicing Mormon, and he became the first member of that religion to be a major party nominee in 2012, when he won the GOP bid before losing the general election to President Obama.
Romney and Trump’s relationship has soured considerably since the latter endorsed the former for the presidency in 2012. Romney delivered a blistering speech against Trump’s candidacy on March 3, calling him a “phony” and a “fraud” whose “promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”
Trump, the frontrunner for the 2016 nomination. frequently assails Romney as a choker who blew the 2012 election against President Obama and emblematic of a weak Republican establishment that Trump’s supporters loathe.
While Trump leads the delegate count, he is far behind his other two GOP rivals in Utah. A new poll puts Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) way out in front with 53 percent of the vote, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 29 and Trump at 11. If Cruz takes more than 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday, he will win all of Utah’s delegates.
Romney took more than 72 percent of the vote against Obama when he won Utah in 2012.