“He has departed in some cases from the truth and has attacked in a way that I think is not entirely appropriate,” said Romney, the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee. “I think that his policies have been by and large a good deal better than I might have expected. But some of the things he has said are not ones that I would aspire for my grandkids to adopt.”
Romney’s comments came as he campaigned in Salt Lake City ahead of a June 26 Republican primary in the race to replace retiring Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah).
Last month, delegates at the Utah GOP’s state convention denied Romney their nomination outright as Mike Kennedy, a three-term state representative who entered the race just weeks earlier, edged out the establishment favorite with 50.88 percent of the vote to 49.12 percent. The close result secured ballot slots for Romney and Kennedy in the primary contest.
In 2016, Romney was a prominent “Never Trumper,” calling his fellow Republican a “phony, a fraud.” In 2018, Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts who made Utah his primary residence just five years ago, has spoken favorably of Trump’s actions on trade and suggested he is tougher on immigration than the president.
On Monday night, NBC’s Garrett Haake asked Romney how he is trying to thread the needle between the 2016 Trump critic and the Senate hopeful who wants to work more closely with the president in the Senate.
“Well, I call ‘em like I see ‘em,” Romney said. “And where the president is right in my view, on policy, for Utah and for the country, I’ll be with him . . . . But if the president were to say something that I consider highly divisive or racist or misogynistic, I’ll call him out on it. Because I think it’s important for people to know exactly where one stands.”
Romney’s comments about Trump as a role model echo those made over the weekend by a sitting Republican senator, James Lankford of Oklahoma.
“I don’t consider the president a role model for my kids,” Lankford said Sunday during an appearance on “Kasie DC” on MSNBC. “I don’t want my kids to speak the way he speaks or make some of the choices, and it has been the challenge for quite a bit of time to say, how do you balance this out between policy and personal behavior in the way he has his own unique style.”
David Weigel contributed to this report.