07/30/2015 10:37 am ET Updated Jul 30, 2015

Mitt Romney Chides Ted Cruz For Calling Obama A Sponsor Of Terror

The former GOP presidential nominee says Cruz is "way over the line."
Credit: Alex Wong via Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney may not be running for president this time around, but he's increasingly taking on the role of party elder, speaking out for what he believes is the best way to elect a Republican to the White House.

On Thursday morning, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee called out presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for saying that the nuclear deal with Iran made President Barack Obama the "world's leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.”

The president ridiculed Cruz earlier this week, as well as other Republican lawmakers, for making controversial comments as a way to command media attention amid the soaring candidacy of real estate mogul Donald Trump.

“We’ve had a sitting senator, who also happens to be running for president, suggest that I’m the leading state sponsor of terrorism,” Obama said during a press conference in Ethiopia. “Maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines, but it’s not the kind of leadership that is needed for America right now.”

Romney chided Trump last month for questioning Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) status as a war hero. The difference between Trump and McCain, who was shot down over Vietnam, is that "Trump shot himself down. McCain and American veterans are true heroes," Romney said.

The former Massachusetts governor's efforts to dial down the heated rhetoric are illustrative of the problem the Republican Party faces as a whole. Despite bipartisan condemnation over many of his controversial comments, from McCain to immigration, and recent allegations of rape, Trump has only expanded his lead in the polls. His frontrunner status has forced lower-rung candidates like Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) to make noise themselves, regardless of whether it crosses the line. 

UPDATE: Cruz shot back in a Thursday interview, arguing that the reason Romney lost in 2012 is because he failed to "stand up and speak the truth."
"Part of the reason Mitt Romney got clobbered by Barack Obama is because, we all remember that third debate where Barack Obama turned to Mitt and said, 'I said the Benghazi attack was terrorism and no one is more upset about Benghazi than I am,'" he told KFYO’s Chad Hasty. "And Mitt, I guess listening to his own advice, said, 'Well gosh, I don't want to use any rhetoric, so never mind, I guess I'll just rearrange the pencil on the podium here.' 
"We need to stand up and speak the truth with a smile," he added. "The truth has power and every time we have Republicans who shy away, we lose."