At the time, it sounded as stunning as a fire alarm.

The last presidential nominee of the Republican Party stepped out in public with a stinging tongue-lashing for the party’s front-running candidate for president, warning of not only their party’s welfare, but also lasting damage to the nation’s future should this man win.

Yet in retrospect, Mitt Romney’s assault on Donald Trump in early March reads today as a relatively mild rebuke for the reality TV showman who has gone on to become the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee. And While Romney managed to say what Trump’s rivals were either unable or unwilling to say in so many words at the time – denouncing him as “a con man, a a fraud” – his well-crafted words had the staying power of about one-and-a-half cable news cycles. His critique came and went, Trump swiftly summarizing it as the ploy of a “failed candidate,” a “choke artist.”

In comparison, Hillary Clinton’s condemnation of Trump this week represented a full-bore indictment of every aspect of his potential presidency and the man himself. While both Romney and Clinton have questioned Trump’s “temperament” as inadequate for the highest office in the land, Clinton centered on a case that Trump is simply dangerous – perilous to the national economy, reckless on the world stage and threatening to undermine everyone’s understanding of what it means to be American.

Rivals and critics have sung in many pitches attempting to affix a lasting political emoji to the Trump brand that $2 billion in free media has crafted. If Romney recited his like Mister Rogers reading from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Clinton drew her sarcastic cues from Saturday Night Live. Yet on Twitter, Trump’s Trumpet, their target plays one refrain: “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”

“Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account at his disposal when he’s angry, but America’s entire arsenal,” Clinton said this week. And again, Trump dismissed the critique as “pathetic” and “political,” a teleprompter-ploy that left its reader looking un-presidential.” With words straight out of a casino night club: “My temperament is totally controlled, so beautiful.”

Clinton runs the same risk that Romney ran when they so boldly undressed the emperor: Dismissed as the envious voices of the establishment in some quarters of an apparently angry nation, their words drowned out by a stage-master demonstrating an uncanny ability to capture the daily cable chyrons without the assistance of any speech-writers.

Clinton runs the risk of repeating Romney’s mistake: Speaking out one day, and letting it go the next. On the other hand, if her speech was truly what another former Republican presidential nominee has identified as “the template” for her campaign, it has the makings for many more speeches in it.

“I think Hillary tried laying a groundwork, and I think that’s going to be sort of her template,” Bob Dole said in an interview with the New York Times. Trump’s criticism of Clinton, he said, has “sort of been scattered.” Trump “has got to catch up.” Odds are – in a contest which opinion polls place well within the margin of error – he will.

Still, a sustained chorus of attacks is unlikely to settle the score with an opponent who thrives on attacks. The deeper challenge for the Democrats remains in the articulation of a reason to elect their own likely nominee.

In some ways, the similarity of Romney’s and Clinton’s words are remarkable:

“Wwe face another time for choosing, one that will have profound consequences for the Republican Party and more importantly, for the country,” Romney said at the University of Utah on March 3. “If we make the right choices, America’s future will be even better than our past and better than our present… On the other hand, if we make improvident choices, the bright horizon I foresee will never materialize. 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.”

“It’s a choice between a fearful America that’s less secure and less engaged with the world, and a strong, confident America that leads to keep our country safe and our economy growing,” Clinton said in San Diego this week. “Because making Donald Trump our commander-in-chief would be a historic mistake… It would set back our standing in the world more than anything in recent memory. And it would fuel an ugly narrative about who we are – that we’re fearful, not confident; that we want to let others determine our future for us, instead of shaping our own destiny.”

Romney: “I am far from the first to conclude that Donald Trump lacks the temperament of be president.’

Clinton: “He is not just unprepared – he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.”

Romney: “Dishonesty is Trump’s hallmark: He claimed that he had spoken clearly and boldly against going into Iraq. Wrong, he spoke in favor of invading Iraq. He said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11. Wrong, he saw no such thing. He imagined it.”

“His imagination must not be married to real power.”

Clinton: “Americans aren’t just electing a president in November. We’re choosing our next commander-in-chief – the person we count on to decide questions of war and peace, life and death. And like many across our country and around the world, I believe the person the Republicans have nominated for president cannot do the job.”

Romney: “Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.”

Clinton: “Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different – they are dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas – just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies.”

“This isn’t reality television – this is actual reality.”

Romney: “If Donald Trump’s plans were ever implemented, the country would sink into a prolonged recession.”

Clinton: “He believes we can treat the U.S. economy like one of his casinos and default on our debts to the rest of the world, which would cause an economic catastrophe far worse than anything we experienced in 2008.”

Romney: “Watch how he responds to my speech today. Will he talk about our policy differences or will he attack me with every imaginable low road insult?”

(Trump tweeted: “Why did Mitt Romney BEG me for my endorsement four years ago?”)

Clinton: “We all know the tools Donald Trump brings to the table – bragging, mocking, composing nasty tweets – I’m willing to bet he’s writing a few right now.”

(Trump tweeted: “Bad performance by Crooked Hillary! Reading poorly from prompter! doesn’t even look presidential!”)

Romney: “Trump’s bombast is already alarming our allies and fueling the enmity of our enemies. Insulting all Muslims will keep many of them from fully engaging with us in the urgent fight against ISIS.”

Clinton: “He also said, ‘I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.’ You know what? I don’t believe him.”

Romney: “Donald Trump tells us that he is very, very smart. I’m afraid that when it comes to foreign policy he is very, very not smart.”

Clinton: “He says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia.”

Romney: “Donald Trump says he admires Vladimir Putin, while has called George W. Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping good.”

Clinton: “He praises dictators like Vladimir Putin and picks fights with our friends – including the British prime minister, the mayor of London, the German chancellor, the president of Mexico and the Pope.”

The essential difference in these diatribes is that Romney was speaking at a time when Trump had triumphed in most of the 15 early party caucuses and primary elections that preceded his talk yet still faced three GOP rivals in the next televised debate: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich. Romney stepped forward in the hope that his words might make a difference.

“I know that some people want the race to be over,” Romney said then. “They look at history and say a trend like Mr. Trump’s isn’t going to be stopped. Perhaps. But the rules of political history have pretty much all been shredded during this campaign.”

Clinton arrives at the challenge at a time when Trump is the presumptive nominee. One speech wasn’t going to stop Trump in March. And one speech won’t stop him in June. It’s also likely to take much more than well-turned attack lines to alter the collision course of a contest in which a majority of Americans already have adopted a negative view of the likely nominees.

If Trump is truly a master of reality politics, it will take a virtual village of adult voices to raze the campaign of what one critics call a man-child. Jon Stewart may have been joking when he called Trump a “man-baby,” with “the physical countenance of a man and a baby’s temperament.” Yet even as he ridiculed the Republican in a podcast from David Axelrod’s Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, he suggested something else is missing from the Democrats’ arsenal.

“The door is open to an a – hole like Donald Trump because the Democrats haven’t done enough to show people that government… can be effective for people, can be efficient for people,” Stewart said. “And if you can’t do that, then you’ve lost the right to make that change and someone’s going to come in and demagogue you.”