Spin Cycle

05.29.12

Mitt Romney’s Trump Problem

They're raising money together, but The Donald brings a little baggage.

Mitt Romney seems to be giving Donald Trump a political bear hug just at the time when the TV impresario is getting back into the birther business.


Someone please explain to me how this makes sense.

It was just over a year ago that President Obama was mocking The Donald at the White House Correspondents Dinner after releasing his long-form Hawaii birth certificate. Not long after that, Trump dropped his brief flirtation with seeking the GOP nomination and re-upped with Celebrity Apprentice.

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Ann Romney looks on as Donald Trump and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney shake hands during a news conference held by Trump to endorse Mitt for president (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

Trump’s a smart guy and a master showman; I can’t for the life of me figure out why he keeps beating this dead horse. It’s not like he can’t attract attention otherwise. But the strange crusade creates something of a dilemma for Romney, though he’s trying his best to duck it.

The unofficial Republican nominee sidestepped the birther question on Monday with this nonanswer: “You know, I don't agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don't all agree with everything I believe in. But I need to get 50.1 percent or more and I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”

Now you might think Trump would tamp down the birther talk to help Team Romney, now that he’s part of a pair of Mitt fundraisers, the first one of them Tuesday night. But you would be wrong.

“Nothing’s changed my mind” on the issue, Trump told CNBC. “And by the way, you know, you have a huge group of people. I walk down the street and people are screaming, ‘Please don’t give that up.’ Look--a publisher came out last week and had a statement about Obama given by them to Obama when he was doing a book as a young man a number of years ago in the ’90s: ‘Born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia.’”

Um, it was Obama's literary agent, and the guy who did it says: "This was nothing more than a factchecking error by me—an agency assistant at the time." Drat!

“I don’t consider myself birther or not birther, but there are some major questions here that the press doesn’t want to cover,” Trump later added. “Now, if that were somebody else they’d be covering it and they’d be throwing people out of office, but they don’t want to cover it.”

Ah, it’s the media’s fault.

Here’s the problem: This birtherism stuff is crazy, completely unsupported by such inconvenient truths as birth announcements in two Hawaii newspapers back in 1961. So Romney is choosing to join hands with a man who is pushing a discredited conspiracy theory. It’s perfectly fair for reporters to ask Romney about that. And by the way, why doesn’t he just say he completely disagrees with Trump on that issue? The primary battle is over and he no longer needs to appeal to the party’s fringe element.

Trump could be, to put it mildly, a colorful spokesman for a bland campaign, though he’d probably wander off-message pretty regularly. Mitt and Donald have undoubtedly bonded on some rich-guy level. But the bromance may be more trouble than it’s worth unless Romney can come up with a better answer to the inevitable question.

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Donald Trump discusses his endorsement.