This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Mitt Romney has some things he wants to say about the 2016 presidential race, and he'll do so Thursday morning at the University of Utah in an address that will surely receive nationwide attention.
In recent days, Romney, who lost to President Barack Obama in 2012, has grown increasingly combative with Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who holds a hefty delegate lead over Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida after the Super Tuesday primaries.
Through Twitter, Romney previously suggested there's a potential "bombshell" in Trump's tax returns, which the candidate has refused to release.
Trump responded by saying: "Mitt Romney, who was one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics, is now pushing me on tax returns. Dope!"
Romney defended himself then and has since criticized Trump after the candidate wouldn't denounce David Duke, a former KKK leader, during a CNN interview.
"A disqualifying & disgusting response by@realDonaldTrump to the KKK. His coddling of repugnant bigotry is not in the character of America," Romney tweeted.
Romney had an employee reach out to the U.'s Hinckley Institute of Politics a few days ago to set up the 9:30 a.m. forum, which will be held in Gardner Hall before hundreds of students and members of the public. Doors open at 8:30 a.m., and seating is first-come, first-served.
His speech will take place just hours before the remaining four Republican candidates will take the debate stage in Detroit. Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, has ended his campaign and won't be participating.
A source close to Romney says the former governor of Massachusetts won't be endorsing a GOP candidate and he isn't joining the race.
Kirk Jowers, former director of the Hinckley Institute and a Romney confidant, said he has a sense of what the former presidential candidate will say and expects it to cause something of a stir.
"We certainly have seen a little bit in the back and forth with Trump, which probably gets people a little more excited about the speech," said Jowers, who plans to attend the forum.
But a head-on criticism of Trump may be targeted more to the Republican establishment than those already backing the celebrity billionaire.
Romney spoke cautiously at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., on Feb. 24, describing the political mood by harking back to the famous line from the movie "Network."
"We're just mad as hell, and won't take it anymore," Romney said, before broadly criticizing political leaders for failing to address major challenges from poverty to education.
Romney briefly considered running in 2016, but he decided in January 2015 that a younger, lesser-known politician would be better suited to defeat Hillary Clinton, the expected Democratic nominee.
While he has said some kind things about Rubio, Romney hasn't endorsed a candidate or given any indication that he's close to doing so. That has led some to speculate that Romney may be holding himself out as a potential GOP savior if no candidate wins the nomination before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this July.
Even on Wednesday, shortly after news of Romney's impending U. speech became public, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told a group of reporters at the U.S. Capitol that Romney, who now lives in Utah, may still get in the race, though it would be difficult at this late stage.
Romney's news release only says that he'll speak "on the state of the 2016 presidential race."
The next big primaries will take place March 15 in states such as Florida and Ohio.
Salt Lake City will host a GOP debate March 21, a day before the Utah Republican Party holds an online presidential caucus. Only registered Republicans will be allowed to vote, and they must sign up through the state party at utah.gop.