New Romney strategy in Michigan: Try to Trump Santorum

posted at 11:35 am on February 20, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

What’s the prescription for a famously brilliant venture capitalist who has trouble connecting with blue-collar voters in his native state?  How about bringing in a far more controversial venture capitalist who’s claim to recent fame is in firing people on national television?  What could go wrong?

With just over a week to go before Michigan voters head to the polls, Mitt Romney is enlisting the help of one of his highest-wattage surrogates: Donald Trump.

The real estate mogul is preparing to spread his pro-Romney, anti-Rick Santorum message in a series of radio interviews this week on local stations from Traverse City to Detroit. …

In recent interviews, Trump has not been shy about his distaste for Santorum, who appears to be locked in a close race with Romney in Michigan — a high stakes contest for both candidates.

“All of a sudden, he says, ‘let’s become president?’ Trump said in an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren earlier this month. “Give me a break.”

When Romney embraced Trump in Nevada while winning the mogul’s endorsement, I thought at the time that it was a smart move for a one-time event.  It got Trump out of position to make a third-party run, and it only cost Romney a single day of people reminding us of Trump’s fascination with Barack Obama’s birth certificate.  After the Nevada endorsement two weeks ago, Trump has been out of sight, and the Romney camp should have counted its blessings.

Now the Romney camp is explicitly linking itself to Trump, and in the strangest place imaginable.  The auto bailouts aren’t as popular in Michigan as some would like to think, but neither is Wall Street.  Romney has spent the last week emphasizing his roots in Michigan, with some limited success, but still finds the blue-collar vote elusive.  Sticking Donald Trump in the forefront as his surrogate isn’t going to help Romney connect with those voters, and it’s likely to help Santorum strengthen his lock on that vote.  Plus, if Trump goes off message and starts spouting off about birth certificates and his theories about Obama’s origins, it’s going to make Romney look like the candidate who can’t stay on message, not Santorum and his battle over the HHS mandate and the media narrative about contraception.

If this is a preview of the kind of strategy we’d see in a general election from Team Romney, then perhaps the electability issue is more open than some would think.


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