Picking a fight with Donald Trump has become a sure-fire strategy for getting attention in the 24-hour news cycle. That’s because, despite the fact that said fight will result in hundreds (if not thousands) of social media mentions, messages and possible doxings, the Donald will deign to address all comers. He did so with Rosie O’Donnell and Megyn Kelly during and after the first Fox News GOP Debate, and now he’s responding to former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney‘s Twitter jabs. Who knows? Maybe Romney will suggest they spar for charity.
That probably won’t happen, but their war of words is sure to heat up for two significant reasons on Thursday — Romney will address the current political climate at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics Student Forum, and Trump will take the Ben Carson-less stage with Republican rivals Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich. The former Massachusetts governor will definitely address Trump’s bonkers presidential bid, which in turn will likely inspire the New York real estate mogul to poke fun at his failed 2012 campaign. Why? Because they’ve been fighting online since late February.
Things first escalated between the two when Romney appeared on Your World with Neil Cavuto on Fox News to discuss the candidates’ tax histories. Romney was especially concerned with Trump’s records, suggesting that a “bombshell” of some kind might be hidden in his records.
Trump immediately took offense to Romney’s televised comments and engaged him on Twitter.
Romney responded in kind.
Trump tried to keep the argument about taxes going by flatly denying Romney’s claims (and the Washington Post article he linked to for reference), but the topic fell to the side when the media latched onto his initial refusal to denounce former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke on Sunday. The new controversy provided Romney with enough to go on for his next punch.
Not surprisingly, many prominent conservative pundits and personalities took notice of Romney’s remark that Trump’s handling of the Duke disavowal was “disgusting.” Fox News correspondent Tucker Carlson and radio show host Laura Ingraham accused Romney of being a liberal — even though conservatives like Cruz and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan later agreed with the ex-governor’s sentiment. Still, these and other pockets of resistance to the general condemnation provided Trump and Romney with enough ammunition to keep the fight going.
Hence Wednesday’s news that Romney would deliver a speech at the University of Utah on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. ET. According to Bloomberg, the former presidential nominee “doesn’t believe Trump is the right person to lead the party” and will be “making the case against Trump” in his remarks. Sources close to Romney and the Republican party told Bloomberg, however, that he wouldn’t necessarily “endorse one of [Trump’s] opponents.”
News of Romney’s forthcoming comments on Trump, the GOP and the 2016 election quickly went viral, after which they were confirmed by CNN and countless other outlets late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. The Trump campaign caught wind of this and quickly set into motion a plan of attack against Romney.
First, there was Twitter.
This was followed by a Facebook video. Yes, a minute and a half-long video dedicated to discrediting Romney, a person who isn’t even running for president in the current election.
If these attacks weren’t enough, Trump kept at it on Twitter with continued assaults against Romney’s performance in 2012. The Republican front-runner apparently wanted to undermine anything his non-rival might say in Utah.
Judging by the number of favorites, retweets, likes and shares his output has already generated, the millions of
trolls people who follow Trump on social media have already bought into the businessman’s anti-Romney message. Whether or not the voting public — especially those Republicans and Independents who still aren’t sure about Trump — agrees with the Trump/Romney fight remains to be seen.
However, one thing is clear, which is that Trump isn’t going to be happy after Romney gives his speech. In prepared remarks, which were previewed by CNN, Romney calls him a “phony” and a “fraud” who is “playing the American public for suckers.”
This is going to be fun.