What’s the Strategy behind Mitt Romney’s Embrace of Donald Trump?Posted: May 29, 2012
Why is Mitt Romney aligning himself with birther-obsessed, reality-TV star Donald Trump? Surely Romney can’t be doing it for the money. Trump will host a fund raiser for Romney in Las Vegas tonight, and the two are even running a raffle (see photo) for followers who would like to dine with the two of them.
As if to emphasize Romney’s by-proxy embrace of birtherism, Mitt has announced that Trumps views don’t matter to him and Trump himself once again pushed the crazy meme on CNBC this morning. From TPM:
Mitt Romney made clear this week he won’t cut ties with Donald Trump, who is hosting a fundraiser for the candidate in Las Vegas on Tuesday, despite the real estate mogul’s claims the president was born in Kenya. Trump returned the favor by launching into yet another screeching birther diatribe on CNBC the morning of the event.
“I never really changed — nothing’s changed my mind,” Trump told CNBC, reassuring that his birtherism is as rock solid as it was last year when he briefly led Republican primary polling. “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 to them by 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.’”
Trump was referring to promotional material for Obama’s memoirs from 1991 that erroneously described him as Kenyan-born, which the publisher has said was a typo. Obama has produced both his short- and long-form birth certificate and the state of Hawaii as recently as this week reconfirmed that he was born in the state, but Trump says the erroneous promo is the one to believe.
Conservative columnist George Will called Trump a “bloviating ignoramus” on Sunday and said he couldn’t understand why Romney would associate with the guy.
“I do not understand the cost benefit here,” Will lamented. “The costs are clear. The benefit — what voter is gonna vote for [Romney] because he is seen with Donald Trump. The cost of appearing with this bloviating ignoramus is obvious it seems to me.” His fellow panel members laughed at the remark.
Will continued, “Donald Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your IQ can be very low and you can still intrude into American politics. Again, I don’t understand the benefit. What is Romney seeking?”
But as a decades-long Villager, Will probably has no clear concept of what’s going on in the Republican Party’s base, where many Tea Partiers actually believe that President Obama is a muslim and wasn’t born in the U.S. I have to believe that this is a deliberate strategy by the Romney campaign to using thinly disguised racism to attract the votes of the most ignorant members of his party’s base. Perhaps Romney believes that if he appears with Trump and refused to explicitly disavow the birther claims, he can undercut their fear of Romney’s reputation as a “Massachusetts moderate” and member of what they see as a “cult” religion.
Chis Cillizza calls this a “losing gamble.” Cillizza says that although Trump might help him get the ignoramus vote, this strategy won’t work with the independents that Romney needs to attract.
poll after poll suggests that the conservative base of the party quickly aligned behind Romney once it became clear he was the nominee. The simple reality is that while Romney makes very few conservative hearts go pitter patter, the base of the Republican party so dislikes/distrusts President Obama that they are going to be with whoever offers an alternative to the current occupant of the White House.
Romney’s task is not then primarily to unify his base but rather to reach out to independents. And, polling suggests Trump won’t help in that regard. In a December 2011 Washington Post-ABC News poll, 41 percent of independents had a favorable opinion of Trump while 47 percent saw him in an unfavorable light. And in a January Post-Pew poll, more than a quarter of people (26 percent) said a Trump endorsement would make them less likely to support a candidate while just eight percent said it would make them more likely.
Whether it’s smart strategy or not, Romney (or his Rove-like handler Eric Fernstrom) appear to be taking a calculated risk that as long as he keeps avoiding the press and appearing only on Fox News, no one will really push Romney to explain why he is deliberately associating himself with an ugly, race-baiting meme that has been repeatedly debunked. Believe me, Romney is mean enough to make that calculation.