PARK CITY — Mitt Romney said Friday he has no regrets about criticizing then candidate Donald Trump in a stinging speech last year but now sees the new president as having "obviously gotten off to a very strong start."
Romney, the Republican Party's presidential nominee in 2012, told the Deseret News that he wishes Trump well despite having labeled him a "fraud" and a "phony" in a University of Utah speech last March.
"I expressed honestly what my belief was with regards to temperament and character. Now the time has come for us to recognize we have a new president and we have hopes he will be successful leading our country," Romney said.
He declined to comment on whether his views of Trump's "personal nature" have changed during an interview before speaking at an event marking the 15th anniversary of the 2002 Winter Games at the Utah Olympic Park.
Romney, who took over Salt Lake City's Winter Games amid an international bribery scandal and helped make the two-week event one of the most successful Olympics ever, hinted he may not be done with politics yet.
"I don't have any predictions on what I might do. I'm not going to open a door and I'm not going to close a door. All doors are open," Romney said after mentioning the 2018 Senate race.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, first elected in 1976, has not yet said whether he will run for re-election, but other potential candidates, including former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., have already surfaced.
One of Romney's five sons, Josh, has also been mentioned as a possible Senate candidate, although Josh Romney has said he is "strongly considering" a run for Utah governor in 2020.
"I'm not looking forward to anything political at the national level," Mitt Romney said. "We've got some races coming up here in Utah that are going to be interesting. We'll see what happens on that front."
Romney said Trump may not have been his pick for president, but shouldn't be judged just yet.
"The campaign is over," Romney said. "I think we come together with hope. And there are encouraging signs on a number of fronts and I’m holding on to those at this stage."
While there have been "some bumps in the road" for Trump, Romney said the new president has stayed true to the commitments he made as a candidate, signing a slew of executive orders on immigration and other issues.
"We're all watching with interest. He’s obviously gotten off to a very strong start in terms of making a series of executive orders and making the changes that he promised during the campaign," Romney said.
Trump is proving wrong those who "wondered whether he would abandon his agenda. He has not. He has pursued it with vigor," Romney said. He added at this point he is hopeful America's interests will be enhanced by the new president.
And so far, Romney said, Trump has appointed "good people" to serve in his administration. He praised the president's choice for the U.S. Supreme Court, 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch, as "superb."
Romney also said he didn't regret being considered by the president to serve as secretary of state. The job went to former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson after a high-profile search that included a dinner meeting between Romney and Trump.
"I had very good meetings with, at that point, President-elect Trump," Romney said, adding that he was encouraged that Trump "was willing to talk to me, given the fact that I had been so critical."
In his speech to the several hundred Salt Lake Organizing Committee staffers and supporters gathered to celebrate, Romney said they, along with volunteers and athletes, were able to live out the theme of the Olympics: "Light the Fire Within."
"It happened. It did for me," the two-time presidential candidate said. "This Olympic experience was the highlight of my professional career. Nothing compares to the time we had together."
Romney sounded confident that Salt Lake City will host another Winter Games.
"The community showed that it really understands the Olympic spirit. Bringing the Games back to Salt Lake City would be fabulous," he said. "And it's going to happen. It's just a question of when."
Tiffany Quilter, who worked for the organizing committee for four months in Park City, said she's ready.
"It was the time of my life. I'd do it again in a heartbeat," Quilter, dressed in a navy blue 2002 Roots beret and an organizing committee staff fleece vest, said. "I'm there, 100 percent."