Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, said Friday he plans to vote for Ted Cruz in the Utah caucuses, giving the Texas senator a boost in his efforts to rally Republicans against billionaire Donald Trump.
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, wrote on Facebook that Cruz is the best choice in what has become "a contest between Trumpism and Republicanism," associating the billionaire with "racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, vulgarity and, most recently, threats and violence."
"The only path that remains to nominate a Republican rather than Mr. Trump is to have an open convention," Romney said. "At this stage, the only way we can reach an open convention is for Senator Cruz to be successful in as many of the remaining nominating elections as possible."
Romney stopped short of explicitly endorsing Cruz, as have other prominent Republicans who have expressed support for him in recent days. Speaking with reporters Friday afternoon in Arizona, Cruz said he nonetheless "very much appreciated" Romney's remarks.
The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.
"Listen, in my book, when someone says, 'I'm voting for you and I encourage everyone else to vote for you,' that's pretty darn good, and I'll take that and take that happily," Cruz said at a news conference after touring Arizona's border with Mexico.
Romney's statement almost immediately drew the ire of Trump, who let loose a string of tweets denouncing him as a failed presidential candidate. One tweet said Romney is a "mixed up man who doesn't have a clue. No wonder he lost!"
In asking Utahans to get behind Cruz, Romney passed over Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the only other candidate left in the GOP race for the White House. Romney wrote that he likes Kasich, whom he campaigned for last week in Ohio, but "a vote for Governor Kasich in future contests makes it extremely likely that Trumpism would prevail."
Kasich's campaign fired back by calling Romney's support for Cruz an example of the "old establishment trying again to game the political system."
“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,” Kasich chief strategist John Weaver said in a statement.
The Utah caucus is one of two nominating contests being held Tuesday. The other is the primary in Arizona, where Cruz was stumping Friday.