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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Republican Senate candidate Mitt Romney meets with the KSL and Deseret News editorial boards in the Deseret News offices in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 30, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney revealed Wednesday who he voted for in the 2016 presidential election.

His wife, Ann Romney.

"I wrote in the name of a person who I admire deeply, who I think would be an excellent president," the Republican U.S Senate candidate told the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards in response to a question. "I realized it wasn't going to go anywhere, but nonetheless felt that I was putting in a very solid name."

Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, had not previously spoken publicly about his 2016 ballot, other than to say he wouldn't vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, partly because of the “Access Hollywood” video, or for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The former Massachusetts governor faces state lawmaker Mike Kennedy in the race for the Republican Senate nomination.

Kennedy said after a debate with Romney on Tuesday that he wrote in GOP Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for president in 2016. During the debate, Kennedy repeatedly said he stands with Trump and questioned how Romney would work with the president given has past criticism.

Before the Utah GOP presidential caucus vote in March 2016, Romney urged Republicans in a Facebook post to get behind Cruz because he believed he had the best chance to beat Trump. In the post, he said "Trumpism" had become associated with racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia and vulgarity.

A month earlier, Romney called Trump a "phony" and "fraud" in scathing speech at the University of Utah.

On Wednesday, he said Washington needs people of "sober judgment," and was asked if Trump is one of those people.

"What he says sometimes does not communicate a sobriety and stability," Romney said. "I think he has more method to the madness than people expect."

Despite his harsh criticism of Trump in the past, Romney has said the president's policy agenda has turned out better than he expected. But Romney still has questions about Trump's character.

"I don't think that he is the role model that I would point to for my grandkids because of his personal style and language," he said.

Romney listed George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and even a Democrat, Harry Truman, as presidents whose personal style and character he admires and from whom his grandkids could learn.

The character of a president, he said, has a long-lasting impact on the country.

"Bill Clinton was a great disappointment for me, and I'm sure for many others," Romney said.

Even though Clinton did some positive things, his personal character failings have affected generations, he said, citing "our commitment to telling the truth, our acceptance of infidelity. Those things, I think, changed ever so slightly, and I think they have a consequence for society."

As for Trump, Romney said, "I'm going to let you all make your own judgments in that regard. I've made mine in terms of saying what I think about the role model for my kids and I will speak with the president privately about things that I hope he will do to influence in a positive way the character of the country."

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Romney said he and Trump, who has endorsed Romney in the Senate race, talk every three or four months and that the conversations are friendly. He said he has known Trump socially for a long time, has stayed at Mar-a-Lago when it was Trump's private residence and has dined with his family.

Now that his niece, Ronna Romney McDaniel, is head of the Republican National Committee, Romney said he has another reason to chat with the president.

"But I have not offered advice on policy," Romney said.