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SALT LAKE CITY — Josh Romney said Thursday it's tough for him and his father, former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, to witness what may be "permanent damage" to the Republican Party from Donald Trump's candidacy.
The concern, Josh Romney told members of the BYU Management Society gathered at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, is that the 2016 GOP nominee has hurt the party's image with minority voters because of his statements on race and religion.
"His Hispanic and black outreach has been minimal at best and harmful in many ways," Romney said, noting the billionaire businessman's efforts to win a larger percentage of white voters than past GOP candidates is not a winning one.
That's because, Romney said, his father "would have won by a bigger landslide than Ronald Regan did against Jimmy Carter" had the nation's demographics not changed since 1980 because he received a higher percentage of the white vote than Reagan.
Republicans have to recognize the dramatic shift in the country's makeup, he said, and Trump's talking of deporting people in the country illegally, making Mexico pay to build a border wall and banning Muslims have been harmful.
"So the concern is what Donald has done. Has it caused permanent damage to the Republican brand and the Republican Party among those minorities? Or is it something we can recover from? I'm not sure," Romney said.
He called it "astonishing" that Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party's pick for president, actually won their primary races and will be on the ballot in November.
What needs to happen, Romney said, is for political parties "to revamp next time, nominate people who stand for something, that will bring us together, unite us as a country, that will tackle hard issues. I believe that can happen."
This election year is going to be hard, especially on his father, said Romney, one of Mitt Romney's five sons.
Mitt Romney slammed Trump as a phony and a fraud in a high-profile speech at the University of Utah just before the state's March GOP presidential preference caucus vote, likely helping Trump finish a distant third.
The two-time presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor has said he will not vote for either Trump or Clinton, and has said he's considering the Libertarian Party ticket headed by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.
On Wednesday, Romney tweeted for the first time in two months, telling Twitter followers he hopes voters get to see Johnson and his running mate, another former Massachusetts governor, William Weld, participate in this fall's debates.
I hope voters get to see former GOP Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld on the debate stages this fall.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) September 7, 2016
That's fueled speculation about a possible Romney endorsement, as has a recent meeting between a top Romney adviser in 2012 and a new entry into the presidential race, Evan McMullin, a Utah native and former CIA officer.
Josh Romney said his father would "love to be there in the fight. He was really hoping to see a young star rise out of the Republican darkness" after toying briefly with a third White House bid.
"It's tough and it's frustrating. We still talk about it a lot. He cares a lot about this country and about the party," Josh Romney said. "It's tough to see what the party is going through."
Josh Romney called himself a believer in the Republican Party of Lincoln and Reagan, "not Donald Trump," and said he hopes the GOP "can remake our brand a little bit next go-round and be more inclusive and more optimistic."
Josh Romney, the president of a Utah-based real estate investment firm, has said he is considering a run for governor in 2020, but Thursday told a reporter he hasn't "made a decision on anything, but I'm considering a lot of options."