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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson March 7, 2016
Linda Qiu
By Linda Qiu March 7, 2016

Donald Trump’s campaign has roiled the primary contests for president, forcing politicians and pundits alike to sort out what’s going on in 2016. On Meet the Press, Mitt Romney continued to make the case that a Trump nomination would be bad for the party and bad for the country.

"Let me put it plainly: If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished," said Romney, the party’s 2012 nominee.

Romney delivered a blistering speech against Trump on Thursday, prompting Meet the Press host Chuck Todd to ask Romney about his comments on Trump’s business record. Four years ago, Romney had spoken positively of Trump’s record when accepting Trump’s endorsement for president.

"Were you just sort of saying something you had to say four years ago in order to accept his endorsement?" Todd asked.

PolitiFact wanted to see if Romney had actually changed his views. So we put Romney’s comments on our Flip-O-Meter to see if he had changed its views. (The Flip-O-Meter doesn’t judge whether such a change is good or bad; it only looks at whether a change has actually occurred.)

We found Romney said very different things about Trump’s track record in 2016 and 2012. His change of position rates a Full Flop on the Flip-O-Meter.

Here’s what he said last week:

"But wait, you say, isn’t he a huge business success that knows what he’s talking about? No, he isn’t. His bankruptcies have crushed small businesses and the men and women who worked for them. He inherited his business, he didn’t create it. And what ever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there’s Trump Magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks, and Trump Mortgage? A business genius he is not."

Here’s what Romney said in 2012 at a news conference in Las Vegas with Trump at his side:

"Being in Donald Trump's magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight. I'm so honored and pleased to have his endorsement. ... Donald Trump has shown an extraordinary ability to understand how our economy works to create jobs for the American people. He's done it here in Nevada. He's done it across the country. ... I spent my life in the private sector. Not quite as successful as this guy. But successful nonetheless."

Romney’s comments in Las Vegas are less specific than what he said in 2016. He never singled out specific business ventures, other than the hotel where the endorsement event was being held.

When we contacted Romney’s office for comment, they pointed us to remarks Romney has made in other recent interviews. Romney’s message seemed to be that he was focusing on the positive part of Trump’s business history in 2012 and giving a more detailed, nuanced recounting in 2016.

"Oh, let me tell you, this is a guy if we look at the past, this is a guy who was very successful and made a lot of money for himself," Romney said in an interview on the March 6 Fox News Sunday. "But at the same time, take a very close look and look how many small people he crushed along the way and how many failures he had."

Still, we see his comments four years apart as being fundamentally different in their message.

Primary turnout

While Republicans like Romney are concerned about Trump, others have noted that the GOP contest is bringing voters to the polls, with Republicans turning out in much larger numbers than Democrats.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Republicans will have an advantage in the fall, said conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks.

"There’s no correlation between primary turnout and wins in the fall in the last 11 elections," Brooks said Meet the Press.

Brooks’ statement rates True.

It’s important to note that not all 11 presidential cycles had competitive primary contests on both sides.

Primary turnout was low in five elections simply because one party’s nomination was locked up by incumbent presidents, and thus not predictive of general election results.

In the six elections where there were contests on both sides, the party with the higher primary voter turnout won the popular vote just three times. In 1976, 1992 and 2008, Democratic primary turnout surpassed that of the GOP nominating race, and the Democratic candidates won the general election.

In the other three elections, more votes in the primary didn’t lead to more votes in the general.

About 6 million more votes were cast for the Democratic nomination in 1980, but Republican Ronald Reagan won about 8.5 million votes in the general election. Similarly, in 1988, Democratic turnout was almost double that of GOP turnout in the primaries, but George H.W. Bush won the election with about 7 million more votes. And in 2000, about 3 million more voters turned out for the Republican primary, but George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore.

Democratic turnout this election cycle may be lower because the contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is simply not as competitive or diverse as the Republican race.

Exit polls show that the vast majority of voters in the Democratic primary are satisfied with either Clinton or Sanders, pointed out Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political science professor.

"On the Republican side, 50 percent or less say that," McDonald said, pointing out that some are casting ballots in the GOP primary to vote against a candidate as much as they're there to  vote for one. "Voters see stark differences between the candidates, and they’re not as happy if the opposing candidate would win."

Overall though, more votes in the primaries may not mean much in what will be a highly competitive general election, according to McDonald.

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