SALT LAKE CITY — A television ad attacking Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney started this week, but it's not his Democratic opponent going on the offensive.
Constitution Party hopeful Tim Aalders, who considers himself the only conservative Republican in the race, questions Romney's credentials. The ad says that Romney admits he is a "progressive."
"Like many of my fellow conservatives, I am frustrated that a state as conservative as Utah could nominate a fraud like Mitt Romney. The fact that Mitt Romney could be our next U.S. senator and work against what President Trump is trying to do is not what Utah wants," Aalders said in a statement.
The 30-second spot started running on cable networks and DirectTV this week, according to Aalders campaign consultant Howie Morgan. It could be up on local stations on Friday, he said.
Aalders said his ad shows Romney's "hatred" for Trump.
The Romney campaign had no comment, said spokeswoman MJ Henshaw.
Romney called Trump a "fraud" and a "phony" before the 2016 presidential election. But when asked about the comments Tuesday after debating Democratic candidate Jenny Wilson, Romney said he's going forward and not rehashing things from the past.
Aalders, a small-business owner who lives in Highland, did not poll high enough to meet the Utah Debate Commission's threshold to participate in the debate.
Romney has largely supported Trump's policies but has criticized some of his inflammatory rhetoric.
"I'll be with the president when I think he's right for the country and for the state. If and when he ever does anything that I think is divisive or misogynistic or anti-immigrant or racist, I'll call him out on that," Romney said.
Trump endorsed Romney before the GOP primary election in June.
Wilson, Romney and Aalders are among the candidates seeking to replace retiring GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch.
A September UtahPolicy.com poll showed Romney leading Wilson 55 percent to 29 percent, with three third-party candidates reaching a combined 8 percent. Aalders fared the best at 4 percent.
Romney started airing a TV ad this week. In it, he says he'll fight to balance the federal budget, lower health insurance and prescription drug costs, end illegal immigration and confirm judges who follow the Constitution.
"Finally, I'll endeavor to act with dignity and respect," he says in the ad.
Wilson does not have a TV ad running and said Tuesday it's "to be determined" whether she will have one. She said she does or will have a "bio spot" online telling her story.
There are many options now to buying television ads, she added.
"I meant it's clear I don't have the resources of Mitt Romney. There's no way I compete in that space, so we're competing on the doorsteps," she said.