WASHINGTON, March 3 (UPI) -- Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president in 2012, came out swinging at Republican front-runner Donald Trump on Thursday, painting a dire picture for the Republican party and the country if Trump becomes the party's nominee.
Speaking at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Iowa, the former Massachusetts governor said Trump lacks the temperament to be president and said he is a "twisted example of evil trumping good."
"If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospect for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished," he said, adding the country will sink into a deep prolonged recession, ballooning the deficit and national debt.
Romney, who lauded Trump just four years ago, saying Trump has "shown an extraordinary ability to understand how our economy works" and has created jobs nationwide, and referred to himself as "not quite as successful" as Trump, said today that Trump is intrinsically dishonest and not stable or suitable for the office. He said allowing Trump to become the nominee will enable a victory for Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
"A person so untrustworthy and dishonest as Hillary Clinton must not become president. But a Trump nomination enables her victory," he said.
"Here's what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He's playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat," Romney said.
Earlier Thursday, Trump blasted Romney as a "failed candidate" and "a stiff." He also took to social media to blast Romney, including creating a video with snippets of sound bites from Romney on topics that include global warming, the Affordable Care Act and abortion.
At a rally in Portland, Maine after the speech, Trump blasted Romney, saying in 2012, Romney was so desperate for Trump's endorsement he could have made him grovel.
LIVE from the Hinckley Institute of Politics at University of Utah.Posted by Mitt Romney on Thursday, March 3, 2016
"I backed Mitt Romney. He was begging for my endorsement," Trump said. "I could have said 'Mitt, drop to your knees.' He would have dropped to his knees."
Read more: http://www.politico.com/blogs/2016-gop-primary-live-updates-and-results/2016/03/donald-trump-mitt-romney-response-220192#ixzz41sRnDVum
"Mitt Romney was a failed candidate; should have beaten [President] Barack Obama easily," Trump said on Good Morning America. "I brought millions and millions of people into the Republican Party over the last very short period of time. It's the biggest story in politics, how many people are flocking into the Republican Party."