Romney: Republicans don't criticize Trump because they fear it will help Warren

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDonald Trump: Unrepentant, on the attack and still playing the victim The Hill's Campaign Report: New challenges for 2020 Dems in Nevada, South Carolina Yes, Democrats have to defend their African-American base against Trump MORE (R-Utah) said Republicans tend not to publicly criticize President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press MORE because they fear doing so will help Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJoe Biden lost his fastball — can he get it back before South Carolina? Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes Budget hawks frustrated by 2020 politics in entitlement reform fight MORE's (D-Mass.) presidential bid.

"They don't want to do something which makes it more likely for Elizabeth Warren to become president or for us to lose the Senate. So they don't want to go out and criticize the leader of our party because they feel that might have the consequence of hurting our country longer term," Romney told "Axios on HBO."

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"People ... genuinely believe, as I do, that conservative principles are better for our country and for the working people of our country than liberal principles and that if Elizabeth Warren were to become president, for instance, or if we were to lose the Senate, that it would not be good for the American people," Romney added.

Warren, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, has surged in the polls in recent months and has overtaken former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenJoe Biden lost his fastball — can he get it back before South Carolina? Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes Bloomberg hits Sanders supporters in new ad MORE in some early primary state polling.

Romney, a freshman senator from Utah who was elected last year, has emerged as one of Trump's strongest critics on the GOP side of Congress amid the Democrats' ongoing impeachment inquiry and the president's decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria.

Trump, meanwhile, has regularly attacked Romney via his Twitter feed and earlier this month suggested that the Utah Republican should be "impeached," though there is no mechanism to do so.

"I’m hearing that the Great People of Utah are considering their vote for their Pompous Senator, Mitt Romney, to be a big mistake. I agree! He is a fool who is playing right into the hands of the Do Nothing Democrats! #IMPEACHMITTROMNEY," Trump tweeted.