Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney discusses his unprecedented attack on this year's Republican frontrunner, and responds to criticism from Rush Limbaugh, who called him a generational member of an anti-conservative GOP establishment.
CHRIS WALLACE: Let's start with Mitt Romney's speech this week in which he basically joined the "anybody but Trump" movement. You say that is going to backfire with Trump supporters and other voters are going to see it as the establishment trying to tell them what to do.
With Mitt Romney listening, explain what he's missing.
LIMBAUGH: Well, it's all that and more. And it's not unprecedented. His dad did much the same thing against Barry Goldwater with a cabal of Republican establishment guys back in 1964. The establishment isn't new. The establishment not wanting outsiders, not wanting conservatives, isn't anything new.
Now, Chris, very briefly, I think there's something remarkable happening here that nobody is talking about. They're skirting the issue. For the longest time, the Republican Party has told us that they can't win with just Republican votes. And that's why they support amnesty. That's why they support the Democrats on many of their issues to go out and get Hispanics or other minorities.
Well, guess who's doing it? Donald Trump is doing it. Donald Trump has put together a coalition, whether he knows it or not, whether he intended to or not, he's put together a coalition that's exactly what the Republican Party says that it needs to win and, yet, look like what they're doing. They’re trying to get Trump out of the race, because they're not in charge of it. They’re not in control of it. And it's the most amazing thing to watch this happen.
Governor Romney comes along and tries to talk people out of Trump, and that's not going to work. You can't talk his supporters out of supporting him. The only guy that will be able to do that is Trump himself.
WALLACE: OK. Let's talk about that because there is a lot of commentary, and some of it coming from conservatives who say that the Republican Party is in it danger of tearing itself apart. We've seen splits many times before over political philosophy, but that's not what's happening this time. This is the establishment, the elite of the party versus the grassroots phase.
LIMBAUGH: Exactly. It really isn't anything new. They were this way with Ronald Reagan, before Reagan was elected. They tried to deny Reagan in '76 and they tried to deny Reagan in 1980.
They're not conservative. This is -- when I hear Governor Romney in his speech last week talk about how the Republican Party must stand for legitimate conservative values. They don't.
That's why they're in the problem -- having the problem they're having. They're not conservative. They're being run by their donors.
You look at these primaries so far, do you realize they don't like Cruz either, Ted -- Chris. In fact, maybe they dislike Cruz more than Trump. But Cruz and Trump are the only guys that have won anything. The establishment candidates in this race cannot get noticed. The Republican primary voters, whether they're close primaries or open, are voting for anybody but candidates attached to the Republican establishment.
WALLACE: I know that you think that Ted Cruz is the real conservative in this race, and we'll discuss him in a moment, but let's talk about Donald Trump first.
How would you feel -- you talked about him bringing new people into the party. How would you feel if he ends up as the Republican nominee for president?
LIMBAUGH: Well, I would feel much the way I feel when anybody is elected. You deal with what you end up getting.
I’m not under any illusion, Chris, that I have any ultimate say-so in this. I’m like anybody else that’s in media. I’ve got my opinions. I share them. I’m not afraid of them.
But you don't win everything. And you ultimately have to take what you get. I think on the case of Trump, there's a much bigger upside than down side.
A lot of people disagree with me on this, but the people who want somebody not of Washington, it's serious this time. It's -- the disconnect between the Republican Party establishment and the Democrat establishment and the people of this country is longer, broader, wider than I’ve ever seen it.
These people in the establishment have been telling us they're the ones to fix everything and everything they've tried to fix, they've botched -- TARP, the recession fix such as the stimulus bill. Look at the college -- college education is an impediment because of how much it costs. A college education is no longer a step up.
The American people have worn out their patience being told by their so-called bettors that you don't know how to live your lives the right way. We need to arrange things for you so you can do things better than you would do yourself. People think it's the other way around.
WALLACE: Let’s --
LIMBAUGH: They would rather invest in themselves than listen to a bunch of people in Washington who do not have a record of fixing anything.
WALLACE: All right. Let's talk about Marco Rubio. He had a tough night last night, three thirds and a fourth. Trump won two states. Cruz won two states.
Afterwards, Trump called on Rubio to drop out and make this a two-man race between Trump and Cruz.
You live in Florida. Is Marco Rubio finished?
LIMBAUGH: I don't see where he's getting traction anywhere and, again, what's harming him? When Rubio won the election, he was a Tea Party darling, he was a Tea Party favorite. What happened? "Gang of Eight".
Whatever the reality is the perception is that he went to Washington and threw in with the, quote/unquote, "establishment". He cannot -- he cannot recover from that. Has not been able to recover from that.
He is seen as now the candidate, the Republican Party and its donors have decided to glom onto next. They tried Jeb.
You look at -- look at Jeb Bush, $115 million and Jeb actually stated in December 2014 that he was going to win this primary by not winning it. He was going to win it without winning base voters. They have made it clear they want nothing of their base. They're embarrassed of their base.
Marco now is attached to that establishment. I don't see his future, not in this particular cycle.
WALLACE: You have not endorsed a candidate, but you talk very favorably about Ted Cruz. In fact, the other day you said he's the closest we're going to come to Ronald Reagan in our lifetimes.
Now, I didn't know Ronald Reagan as well as you did but I did cover him for eight years as president. I’ve got to say that I felt that Reagan was more inclusive than Cruz is, more about trying to soften the edges to get more people inside the tent.
LIMBAUGH: I don't think that's strategic. You're talking personalities. The -- I said this on the air the other day.
I think Senator Cruz's strategy is that there’s 4.5 million, 5 million Republicans that didn't vote in 2012. This is the conventional wisdom and they didn't vote because they didn't like the nominee, wasn't conservative enough, or there was a religious component. Who knows what?
Anyway, Senator Cruz thinks that if he can get those voters, that -- and everybody else votes the same way they did in 2012, they can win in a landslide. So, he's tailored his message for a specific conservative evangelical. I think it's limited his appeal. I think he has the ability to appeal to everybody.
That debate the other night that you guys did, I don't mean this to be insulting to anybody, I’m just telling you what I saw, he was in a different league on a different planet. Everybody says we need substance in these debates, you've got it. You've got it from Cruz.
The other guys are doing what they were doing. At one point, Trump even had to say, yes, whatever Ted said, I agree with.
He's just in a different league. He understands conservatism because he is.
And he is a nice guy, a likeable guy. He's not crazy. He's not nasty. And he certainly is not -- he’s not a liar. He's a down -- down the middle guy that I -- anybody could trust. He has got plenty of integrity.
This is what happens in politics. The establishment doesn't like him either. It's not just Trump. That's because he is who he is. He is conservative. He does want to get government out of people's lives and that -- we can't have that in the establishment.
WALLACE: All right. Let's look down the line a little bit. There's a lot of talk among the "Stop Trump" movement about a brokered convention. First of all, what do you think is the chance of that?
And, second, if they go into the convention and Trump doesn't have the majority, doesn't have 1,237 but he has more delegates than anybody else, what happens if the establishment -- as you put it -- keeps him from getting the nomination?
LIMBAUGH: Well, you keep a sharp eye who runs this convention? The establishment. These guys, whoever they are, the Republican Party, they run it.
I was looking at the rules the other day. Rule 40 determines everything that you asked me about. If Trump does not get 1,237, the delegates are pledge d to him whether they want to vote for him or not on the first ballot. After that, it is wide open.
But there's also, at least as of 2012 and I think it's subject to be changed anytime they want, candidates, in order to be considered at an open convention, have to have gotten at least a majority of delegates in eight states. They can change that rule anytime they want. They can change the rules whenever they want. There are meetings coming up prior to the convention.
So, they will do, I predict, that if they can't stop Trump in the primary process, they will make an effort to stop him at the convention. I mean, Governor Romney has pretty much telegraphed this.
WALLACE: And what would happen if that were to pass?
LIMBAUGH: And if that happens -- if that happens, there's a walkout. If that happens, then you’ve got utter chaos, because it will exemplify, typify exactly what has happened to the Republican Party and its base.
WALLACE: Here's the question I get most often, Rush, from folks I run into. How does this story end?
LIMBAUGH: I think it ends with everything working out. I think it ends with a nominee. I actually think when we get down to this summer and this all comes together and they pressure and intensity now is taken care of, I think we're going to have a nominee, whoever it is, and we'll have support for the nominee.
I think we're going to move forward because I think at the end of all of this, everybody is going to ultimately realize that if the Democrat Party that is the most destructive force in this country. It's not one of these Republicans. And they have to be stopped and they have to be stopped in this election if this country is to be restored to its founding principles and the ideals that the majority of Americans associate with this country.
The Democrats have to be stopped and that's going to be what ultimately brings us everybody back to sobriety here.
WALLACE: So, bottom line -- all this talk about a rupture or shattering of the Republican Party and if Trump wins the nomination there will be a third party run, you think a lot of that is overblown?
LIMBAUGH: I do but, look, I’m rarely wrong but I could be. There might be a third party. I just think that the realization that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party posed the greatest threat to our future, children, grandchildren, all of that, is going to bring everybody back to reality.
The Republican Party may be forever reconstituted and changed, which may not be a bad thing either, in and of itself.
Chris, this is real. This is not a phase. This is not a temper tantrum. The average American who I believe makes this country work thinks the Republican Party is actually oriented against its interests and does not understand or believe the crisis they think the country's in.
So, the party will not be healed by any of this. But I think clear heads will prevail and the correct enemy will be identified, political enemy will be identified, and efforts will come together to defeat whoever it is they throw up -- Democrats, I mean.
WALLACE: Rush, thank you. Thanks for your time. Always good to talk with you.
I don't think I interrupted you a single time. I’ve got to applaud both of us for that.
LIMBAUGH: Thank you, Chris, very much. Great to be here always.
WALLACE: Up next, Mitt Romney on the split in the Republican Party and his attack on Donald Trump.
Plus, what do you think of Romney's speech and the prospect of a brokered convention?
Let me know on Facebook or Twitter @FoxNewsSunday and use the #fns.
WALLACE: A look outside the beltway at Detroit, the site of tomorrow's Fox News Democratic town hall with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders ahead of Michigan's primary on Tuesday.
Well, this week, the last Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, launched a brutal attack on this year's front-runner, Donald Trump. He joins me now live from San Diego.
And, Governor, welcome back.
ROMNEY: Thanks, Chris. Good to be with you.
WALLACE: In the interest of equal time, you heard Rush Limbaugh had a lot to say about you. What do you want to say back?
ROMNEY: Well, I always enjoy listening to Rush Limbaugh. I often agree with him. Sometimes I disagree with him.
But I think we can all agree this is a very important election. We don't want to see Hillary Clinton become the president of the United States.
I think the great majority of Republicans, mainstream Republicans from across the country, don't want to see Donald Trump as president of the United States either. They're concerned they'd see a recession and I think they are also concerned we'd see a more dangerous world.
WALLACE: Here is the criticism that I heard from some people, and I guess that would include Rush Limbaugh, about your speech. You certainly have a right, you know, the First Amendment is there to criticize Donald Trump and say why he'd be a bad president. But some people say that your speech was -- their words -- condescending, even un-democratic in the sense that, in effect, you're saying folks who are voting for Trump don't know what they're doing.
ROMNEY: No, I think folks need to understand the whole background of Donald Trump. I find from time to time, I talk to people about the campaign and they say, gosh, I didn't know that Donald Trump gave a bunch of money to Jimmy Carter and to Hillary Clinton and to Harry Reid and to John Kerry.
They hear from Donald Trump that he's such an extraordinary success. They didn't know about Trump airlines and Trump mortgages and Trump vitamin network and Trump steaks and Trump Taj Mahal. They didn't realize a lot of small people have been crushed by Donald Trump's rise to become a very wealthy man, successful financially, but this is a guy who has not been a uniform success.
As they learn about him, a lot of them say, you know, I want to make sure I take a closer look at the other guys in the race.
WALLACE: How about the argument and, again, we heard this from rush, this is the establishment basically trying to maintain control of a guy -- and push back a guy they wouldn't be able to control.
ROMNEY: Well, you can't control Ted Cruz for instance. No one has suggested you could do that and Marco Rubio, everyone tried to stop Marco Rubio from going against a sitting Republican governor in Florida. He did it anyway and won.
Establishment suggests there must be some Wizard of Oz somewhere pulling the strings. That's not the way it works. There are individuals like myself. I sat there and watched Donald Trump, and I said, look, someone has got to say something.
I didn't talk to anybody and say, "I’m going to do a speech, do you go some ideas?" This is something I did on my own because I care very deeply about the country.
I love America. I’m concerned about America and I believe the heart and soul of conservatives and Republicans recognize that the principles that Donald Trump is talking about have nothing to do with conservatism, nothing to do with keeping America strong.
WALLACE: Do you see any connection between your speech and the fact that Trump, who was expected to win all four contests yesterday, ended up losing two of them to Ted Cruz?
ROMNEY: Well, it was a big night for Ted Cruz last night, as you know. And I think that's overwhelming because people are taking a closer look at Donald Trump. I think the best look they got was at the last debate.
I think Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio prosecuted their case effectively. Donald doesn't have some great answers. When they talk, for instance, about immigration and releasing those tapes from The New York Times, we began talking about flexibility and immigration.
Flexibility. Oh, that's pretty clearly saying that what he said to The New York Times is very different than what he's saying to the American people. He is not the real deal. He is a phony.
You know, he talks about how he's not going to be controlled by the moneyed interests. Do people understand that he's not giving money to his campaign, he's loaning it because he expects to get money back from those same big donors he decries right now? He's planning on running a general election based upon raising money from those very people.
Look, he's not the real deal. I think as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio made that very clear and that's why you saw the kind of night that happened last night.