Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said that former President Donald Trump made many wise decisions as president and can win in 2024 but the Utah Republican insisted he would “absolutely not” vote for him over President Joe Biden due to “character” and differences on foreign policy.

In an appearance on CNN’s “The Source” program on Wednesday, Mr. Romney said that, if the election were held today, President Trump “would probably win.”

He said there are “a lot” of things President Trump has done better than President Biden, adding that “Joe Biden has made extraordinary mistakes on the immigration front. It’s embarrassing how bad he’s been.”

Mr. Romney didn’t elaborate but his remarks come as the country is in the throes of a border crisis of historic proportions. Some estimates indicate that around 10 million illegal immigrants have poured across the border since President Biden took office.

“And Donald Trump did a lot of smart things when he was president,” Mr. Romney continued, adding that he’s “aligned with many of [President Trump’s] domestic policies.”

‘No, No, No’

The program host, Kaitlan Collins, then asked Mr. Romney pointedly whether he’d vote for President Trump over President Biden.

“No, no, no, absolutely not,” he replied, adding that there are two factors he considers when deciding who to cast his vote for.

“One is their position and policies,” he said. “And on foreign policy I’m not aligned with Donald Trump, at least as I understand his policy. And domestic policy—yeah I’m aligned with many of his domestic policies.”

“But there’s another dimension besides policy and that’s character,“ Mr. Romney continued. ”Having a president who is so defaulted of character would have an enormous impact on the character of America. And for me, that’s the primary consideration.”

In terms of foreign policy, Mr. Romney said he believes that, if elected, President Trump would usher in a “dramatic change” to America’s foreign policy, moving away from global engagement toward isolationism.

“I think that people around the world say, ‘okay, America is no longer the leader of the free world, and the arsenal of democracy. It’s not the shining city on a hill. It’s now an isolated island,’” he said.

Mr. Romney added that he believes China is chomping at the bit to replace America as a global leader.

“I know at least one player that’s happy to step into that role, and that’s China,” he said. “And a world where Xi Jinping is the leader of the world is a very dangerous world and not good for America, not good for our businesses, for our economy, but certainly not good for our freedom.”

Mr. Romney did not specify how he thinks a Trump presidency would undermine America’s leadership role but the former president faced criticism for his insistence that NATO member countries should meet their alliance obligations by spending at least 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense so the United States doesn’t have to foot the bill.

NATO Remark Controversy

Most NATO countries still have not reached the 2 percent threshold, with President Trump resorting to tough rhetoric—including hinting that the United States wouldn’t help defend countries that don’t meet the target—to force them to become more self-reliant.

At a recent event in South Carolina, President Trump said: “One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, ‘Well sir, if we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?’ I said, you didn’t pay? You’re delinquent? He said, ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’ No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay.”

Facing pushback for his comments that NATO countries that don’t spend 2 percent of GDP on defense can’t count on America’s military protection, President Trump later clarified his remarks, suggesting he was trying to browbeat the stragglers into picking up more of the defense tab for their own good.

“When I told the 20 Countries that weren’t paying their fair share that they had to pay up, and said without doing that you will not have U.S. Military Protection, the money came rolling in,” President Trump wrote on social media, referring to the pressure he put on NATO countries to boost military spending while he was in office.

“After so many years of the United States picking up the tab, it was a beautiful sight to see,“ he continued. ”But now, without me there to say you must pay, they are at it again.”

President Trump’s remarks suggest that, unlike Mr. Romney appears to believe, America under a Trump presidency would not relinquish its leadership role but would, in line with the conservative adage of “peace through strength,” deter attacks against it and its allies, in part by encouraging allies to become stronger militarily.

Several Republican lawmakers said they’re convinced President Trump’s remarks about NATO were meant to get allies that don’t meet the 2 percent spending threshold in line, and that the former president’s foreign policy record suggests there would be fewer global conflicts during a potential second Trump presidency.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Reuters that he disagreed with the way President Trump expressed his views on NATO ally spending, but noted: “Russia didn’t invade anybody when he was president, and if he’s president again they won’t.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) had a similar take.

“Virtually every American president at some point, in some way, has complained about other countries in NATO not doing enough. Trump’s just the first one to express it in these terms,“ he said in an interview on CNN. ”But I have zero concern, because he’s been president before.”

Mr. Romney recently announced he wouldn’t be seeking a second term in the Senate.

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