Rand Paul defends Trump against Romney op-ed: He 'wants to signal how virtuous he is'

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulO'Rourke: Trump 'provoking' war with Iran by sending troops to Middle East Overnight Defense: 1,500 troops heading to Mideast to counter Iran | Trump cites Iran tensions to push through Saudi arms sale | Senate confirms Army, Navy chiefs before weeklong recess Trump to send 1,500 troops to Middle East to counter Iran MORE (R-Ky.) took aim at his incoming Senate colleague Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyClimate change is a GOP issue, too On The Money: Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump | Trump to offer B aid package for farmers | House votes to boost retirement savings | Study says new tariffs to double costs for consumers Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump MORE on Wednesday after the Utah senator-elect targeted President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE in an op-ed criticizing the president's character.

In a tweet, the Kentucky senator accused Romney of attempting to display "how virtuous he is in comparison to the President," while calling him a "big government Republican" opposed to former President Reagan's ideals of limited federal power.

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"Like other Big Government Republicans who never liked Reagan, Mitt Romney wants to signal how virtuous he is in comparison to the President," Paul wrote in a tweet.

"Well, I’m most concerned and pleased with the actual conservative reform agenda @realDonaldTrump has achieved," the senator added.

Paul's tweet came in response to a Washington Post column penned by Romney on Tuesday ahead of his Thursday swearing-in as Utah's junior senator in which Romney attacked Trump for a "shortfall" of leadership and good character.

Romney will replace retiring Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump gambles in push for drug import proposal Biden's role in Anita Hill hearings defended by witness not allowed to testify 'Congress' worst tax idea ever'? Hardly. MORE (R) in the Senate.

"On balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office," Romney, who ran as the GOP nominee for president in 2012, wrote in the Post.

"To reassume our leadership in world politics, we must repair failings in our politics at home. That project begins, of course, with the highest office once again acting to inspire and unite us," Romney added in the piece.

The president himself responded to the op-ed Wednesday morning, calling on the Utah senator to focus on the White House's efforts to secure funding for border security and other policy issues.

"Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not," Trump wrote on Twitter.

"Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!" he added.