Mitt Romney plans to vote for Senator Ted Cruz of Texas in Utah’s caucuses on Tuesday, he wrote Friday in a Facebook post. He also seemed to call for Gov. John Kasich of Ohio to step aside to give Republicans a better chance to block Donald J. Trump’s bid for the nomination.
Mr. Romney’s vote in Utah, where he owns a house in Holladay, is not an endorsement, his allies stressed. Rather, it is part of his effort to unite the Republican Party around an alternative to Mr. Trump.
“Today, there is a contest between Trumpism and Republicanism,” Mr. Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, wrote on Facebook. “Through the calculated statements of its leader, Trumpism has become associated with racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, vulgarity and, most recently, threats and violence. I am repulsed by each and every one of these.
“The only path that remains to nominate a Republican rather than Mr. Trump is to have an open convention,” he wrote. “At this stage, the only way we can reach an open convention is for Senator Cruz to be successful in as many of the remaining nominating elections as possible.”
This month, Mr. Romney delivered a scathing speech against Mr. Trump, calling him “a fraud” and “a phony” in urging his fellow Republicans to block him from securing the delegates needed to win the nomination.
Though Mr. Romney campaigned with Mr. Kasich before the Ohio primary this week, he said in his Facebook post that Mr. Cruz represented the party’s best chance to defeat Mr. Trump.
“I like Gov. John Kasich. I have campaigned with him. He has a solid record as governor. I would have voted for him in Ohio,” Mr. Romney wrote. “But a vote for Governor Kasich in future contests makes it extremely likely that Trumpism would prevail.”
Mr. Romney had for weeks been contemplating whether to make a more forceful statement about the candidates in the race. And his statement, even couched in praise of Mr. Kasich and without an explicit call for him to exit the contest, was surprising for a politician who has often been cautious .
Much of the Republican establishment has been reluctant about embracing Mr. Cruz, disdaining him as a self-centered politician who once called the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, a liar on the Senate floor. Mr. Cruz has been trying to forge a path for people to feel comfortable supporting him, and Mr. Romney’s comments could give other prominent Republicans the cover to back the Texas senator.
In his message, Mr. Romney called Mr. Cruz the candidate best positioned to defeat Mr. Trump at the party’s convention in July.
“I will vote for Senator Cruz and I encourage others to do so as well, so that we can have an open convention and nominate a Republican,” Mr. Romney concluded.
Reacting to Mr. Romney’s post, Mr. Trump took to Twitter to mock the former Republican nominee — and Mr. Cruz.
Failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the man who “choked” and let us all down, is now endorsing Lyin’ Ted Cruz. This is good for me!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2016
Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cruz, said the campaign was grateful for Mr. Romney’s support. “We’re thankful that Governor Romney will vote for Ted and agree that a vote for Ted Cruz is the only way to ensure that a Republican wins the nomination,” she said.
In the past, Mr. Cruz has been less than effusive about Mr. Romney, suggesting he belonged to the party’s “mushy middle” and arguing that Republicans would be foolish to nominate such candidates going forward.
He has also contended that Mr. Romney was ill-suited for the 2012 nomination because his health care overhaul as governor of Massachusetts was seen as a precursor to the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans (including Mr. Romney) have assailed.
Mr. Kasich, said that despite Mr. Romney’s remarks, he was the candidate best positioned to win in November.
“I’m the only one of the three that can win a general election and beat Hillary Clinton,” he said. “I campaigned with Mitt, I like Mitt, and I just, it’s a place where we just disagree.”