Romney, who lost the 2012 presidential race to then-incumbent President Barack Obama, called on Republican primary voters to cast their ballots “tactically” to prevent Trump from winning the party’s nomination on the first ballot and set up the party’s first contested convention since 1948.
“I would vote for Marco Rubio in Florida, for John Kasich in Ohio, and for Ted Cruz or whichever one of the other two contenders has the best chance of beating Mr. Trump in a given state,” Romney said, according to the Reuters news service.
Otherwise, Romney said, Trump would likely lose the Nov. 8 general election to expected Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton.
Clinton is a former secretary of state. Rubio and Cruz are sitting U.S. senators and Kasich is governor of Ohio.
Romney spoke Thursday at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
Trump, a billionaire businessman who is self-financing his campaign for the Republican nomination, finished first in seven of 11 primaries Tuesday and holds a considerable lead in delegates awarded thus far and in polls of voters in many of the remaining states.
Next up for the Republicans is Kentucky’s first-ever caucus on March 5 and Florida’s primary on March 15.
Romney’s speech, which came hours before the four remaining Republican candidates were to meet in a televised debate in Detroit, is being seen as part of an effort by mainstream Republicans, who see the outspoken billionaire as radical and controversial, to halt Trump’s advance toward the party’s presidential nomination
Trump supporters have embraced the billionaire’s calls for blocking Muslims from emigrating to the United States, building a wall on the border with Mexico to stop illegal immigration from the south and deporting 11 million illegal aliens already in the U.S.
More than 90 Republican national security experts signed an open letter opposing Trump’s foreign policy positions, Reuters said.
But Trump dismissed Romney as “an embarrassment” at a rally in Maine.
“Mitt is a failed candidate — he failed, he failed horribly,” Trump said.