Romney urges Republicans to back Cruz against Trump

Mike Nizza
Bloomberg News

About two weeks after issuing a passionate call to Republicans to oppose Donald Trump by voting for any of his opponents, Mitt Romney has chosen one: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.

Romney, a Michigan native, said Friday he will vote for Cruz in the upcoming caucuses in his home state of Utah. Utah is one of four contests scheduled for Tuesday. Early polling shows Cruz leading among the state’s predominantly Mormon voters.

“I will vote for Senator Cruz and I encourage others to do so as well, so that we can have an open convention and nominate a Republican,” Romney wrote on Facebook on Friday afternoon.

The 2012 Republican nominee for president announced the decision as the billionaire front-runner faces two remaining foes: Cruz, who trails Trump by 265 delegates, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who won his home state on Tuesday but only has 143 delegates so far. If Trump, who has 678 delegates to date, doesn’t gather at least1,237 by the Republican convention in July, it would be possible for delegates to hand the nomination to someone else through a series of votes.

By the same logic, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham also backed Cruz this week after spending much of the campaign criticizing him.

“Cruz is not my first pick by any choice, but I don’t see how John Kasich can mount the opposition that Ted Cruz can to stop Donald Trump,” he said, according to the Post and Courier.

Graham, who originally backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, announced the endorsement after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio dropped out of the race following a second-place showing in Florida, his home state.

Romney is seeking to deny Trump the nomination, saying he was “repulsed” by the “racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, vulgarity and, most recently, threats and violence” that have become associated with his candidacy.

The move most immediately impacts the campaign of Kasich, who enjoyed Romney’s support as primary day approached in Ohio. The former Massachusetts governor joined him on the trail, and backed him in robocalls to voters. “I like Governor John Kasich,” Romney wrote. “But a vote for Governor Kasich in future contests makes it extremely likely that Trumpism would prevail.”

Romney’s suggestion that Kasich is a spoiler has been a common refrain for establishment Republicans. Bush’s team has said that he would have performed better in South Carolina, where he ultimately dropped out of the race, had Kasich folded his campaign after New Hampshire. Rubio’s supporters believe Kasich cost them a needed victory in Virginia.

The response from the Kasich campaign was testy, to say the least. “The fact is the establishment has gotten it wrong this entire primary and it is unfortunate to see that Mitt Romney is getting bad political advice,” said John Weaver, the Kasich campaign’s chief strategist.

Associated Press contributed.