What’s the Strategy behind Mitt Romney’s Embrace of Donald Trump?

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.

20 Comments on “What’s the Strategy behind Mitt Romney’s Embrace of Donald Trump?”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    David Graham at The Atlantic argues that Romney doesn’t want to repudiate birtherism, because John McCain did it in 2008 and the base hates McCain.

    Interesting. I never thought of that.

    • dakinikat says:

      Obama has made an ad about this … it contrasts McCain’s responses to Romney’s nonresponses.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I know, and it sounds like Obama is falling into Romney’s trap by comparing him with McCain.

        What needs to happen is for the media to hammer this until Romney has to justify it.

      • northwestrain says:

        McCain showed that he had class — whereas Romney is just a thug.

        The thing is — even if 0bama were born outside of the US — his mom was a solid gold US citizen. Which makes 0bama a US citizen. Problem is that 0bama has been less than honest about how he manged to travel to Pakistan and his book is largely fiction — which is enough to hand the GOP talking points to question his citizenship. Now perhaps if the ERA had been passed decades ago this would not be an issue today. That his mom was a born in the USA citizen would have locked down all the birthers. The fact is that there are some old sexist laws on the books — USA born women lost their citizenship when they married an alien — even if the women never stepped out of the US in the lives.

        Seems to me that Trump is a CMCP. (Certified Male Chauvinist personality). Well hell we know he is.

        However the Arizona ICE deportation of at least one person who’s mother was a US citizen which should have made him a citizen, makes me think that the GOP has an alternative view of reality. Plus Florida has made up a rule about college students — both parents must be citizens (could be that Florida wants both parents to have been born in the US?) Whatever — Florida makes up laws that have little bases in fact or established law.

        McCain had to go through the same sort of crap — Both of his parents were citizens — but he was born in Panama. He is a US citizen because his parents were — period. So McCain had empathy for the dimwits chatter about 0bowma.

        Yet the religious right nitwits running the GOP hate McCain. Frankly I doubt that Jesus Christ would be good enough for that gang of vultures.

    • You know BB, that makes sense because remember when McCain told the woman at the town hall that Obama was not a fascist? Or was it socialist…or something else.

  2. NW Luna says:

    ….but rather to reach out to independents. And, polling suggests Trump won’t help in that regard.

    Good. I cannot fathom how anyone can look at or listen to Trump and not burst out in guffaws.

    • RalphB says:

      Guffaws or perhaps a sputtering rage.

    • ecocatwoman says:

      Apparently there are plenty of people who “like” the Donald, otherwise why does his stupid show, Celebrity Apprentice, keep getting renewed? I forced myself to watch one season because I’m a fan of Marlee Matlin. She won hands down in the competition but the Donald picked the country singer Man instead. She was royally screwed by Trumpschiester. Personally, he makes me want to vomit.

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    The simple answer to the question is that Mitt has no friends which was most evident during the GOP debates. Nobody can stand him.

    Trump is the guy he hangs with since nobody else will. It gives him whatever “prestige” he lacks otherwise. Imagine:he is the new bff of a NYC millionaire who hosts his own reality show, judges beauty contests, and has buildings bearing his name.

    Besides, Trump can say just about anything he so wishes and Mitt can just stand there smirking that thing he calls a smile without having to take questions. It’s perfect! The Donald gets the attention he craves while Mitt gets to have his picture taken.

    And don’t discount the number of voters out there who actually believe that Obama is a card carrying communist, a secret Muslim born in a faraway land, who hates America as much as they hate him.

    A “win win” for ignorance, hate, and racism.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Oh, I don’t discount them, and neither does Romney. He knows exactly what he’s doing. I never thought about the idea that he needs a buddy to hang with. That might be true.

  4. jawbone says:

    Also, Trump has some claim to being in the Big Money club, so there’s that to build an alliance, maybe even friendship on.

    Maybe Trump appeals to Mitt’s Inner High School Bully, as well.

    • northwestrain says:

      My vote is for — it is the money.

      Trump is a showman — a narcissist. Some people are drawn to phony wind bags — and these people vote.

      Also Trump is as close as Romney can get to the cool Hollywood crowd.

  5. ecocatwoman says:

    Totally OT, but had to share. I heard this story this AM on NPR. http://www.treehugger.com/bikes/loyal-dog-runs-1100-mile-bike-tour-video.html

  6. ecocatwoman says:

    But here’s an old Trump story about something both Mittens & he agree: http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/donald-trump-climate-scientist.html

  7. RalphB says:

    Great video interview with Paul Krugman. Like Dak, sometimes the smartest people are the easiest to understand and this is one of those cases.

    Krugman: This may be when it all falls apart

    Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said Monday that the tepid response to the current economic crisis could ruin the United States and Europe.

    “We are living through a time where we face an enormous economic challenge,” he told RT’s Thom Hartmann. “We are facing — obviously — the worst challenge in 80 years and we are totally mucking up the response. We’re doing a terrible job. We’re failing to deal with it. All of the people, the respectable people, the serious people, have made a total hash of this. That is a recipe for radicalism. It is a recipe for breakdown.”

    Krugman noted that the massive demonstrations in parts of Europe were reminiscent of the 1930s.

    “There are a lot of ugly forces being unleashed in our societies on both sides of the Atlantic because our economic policy has been such a dismal failure, because we are refusing to listen to the lessons of history. We may look back at this thirty years from now and say, ‘That is when it all fell apart.’ And by all, I don’t just mean the economy.”