2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney delivered a blistering speech on Thursday against the potential 2016 nominee, Donald Trump, calling him a "phony" and a "fraud" who was unfit to be president.
"Here's what I know," Romney said. "Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University."
Romney, speaking in Salt Lake City, Utah, assailed the GOP frontrunner on multiple fronts, ranging from his many controversial comments to his vague policy plans to his blustering and pugilistic temperament.
"If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished," he said.
Romney attacked Trump’s economic proposals as vacuous and risky, saying they could cause a new recession if implemented.
"His tax plan in combination with his refusal to reform entitlements and to honestly address spending would balloon the deficit and the national debt," Romney said. "So even though Donald Trump has offered very few specific economic plans, what little he has said is enough to know that he would be bad for American workers and for American families."
Romney did not endorse any of the remaining three Republican candidates and put to rest persistent rumors that he himself would run. However, Romney praised Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio, saying any of them would make a qualified nominee.
Romney also laid out several Trump’s failed business ventures, including Trump Steaks, Trump University and Trump Airlines.
"A business genius, he is not," Romney said.
In one of his early applause lines, Romney mocked Trump's idea to resolve the Syrian civil war by letting the Islamic State terrorist group duke it out with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad so the U.S. could "pick up the remnants."
"Now, think about that," Romney said. "Let the most dangerous terror organization the world has ever known take over an entire country? This recklessness is recklessness in the extreme. Now, Donald Trump tells us that he is very, very smart. I'm afraid that when it comes to foreign policy, he is very, very not smart."
Romney blasted Trump for his personal conduct on the campaign trail, noting his mockery of a disabled reporter and suggestion that Fox News host Megyn Kelly was on her period when the two had contentious debate exchanges.
"Think of Donald Trump's personal qualities. The bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the third-grade theatrics," Romney said. "Now, imagine your children and your grandchildren acting the way he does. Would you welcome that? Haven't we seen before what happens when people in prominent positions fail the basic responsibility of honorable conduct?"
The speech underscored how much things have soured between the two men since 2012, when Trump endorsed Romney for the White House. Now, Trump has derided Romney as a loser who blew an opportunity to defeat Barack Obama in 2012, tweeting earlier Thursday that Romney ran "one of the worst presidential races in history."
Romney suggested that giving Trump the nomination in 2016 would pave Hillary Clinton's path to the presidency.
The seeds for Romney’s speech were sown last week when he suggested during a Fox News interview that Trump might be hiding something in his taxes.
"I predict that there are more bombshells in his tax returns," Romney said Thursday. "I predict that he doesn't give much, if anything, to the disabled and to our veterans."
In closing, Romney said that American democracy has survived and thrived because of great leaders and great citizens who had always put the country before themselves at critical junctures.
While acknowledging the "anger" felt by the American electorate, Romney said Trump would lead the United States into the abyss.
"He's playing the American public for suckers," Romney said. "He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat. His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president, and his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill."
"I'm convinced America has greatness ahead, and this is a time for choosing. God bless us to choose a nominee who will make that vision a reality."