It was supposed to be a day of triumph for Mitt Romney, when he would at last formally claim the Republican presidential nomination with a victory in the Texas primary. And Mr. Romney was to focus attention on an aggressive new attack on President Obama, highlighting the White House’s role in backing failed companies like Solyndra.

Instead, Tuesday was hijacked by Donald J. Trump

With Mr. Trump, the Romney campaign privately maintains an attitude of quiet exasperation and good-natured eye-rolling, but it is reluctant to criticize him publicly. He is a prolific fund-raiser and willing surrogate whose fame and following can marshal both top-dollar and small-money donors…

Many Republicans have questioned whether Mr. Trump is worth the headache. “I’ve always thought Romney would gain a lot more mileage by stiff-arming Trump,” said Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist. “I think who Romney stands with says a lot about what he’ll stand for. Associating with Trump seems to only reinforce the narrative on Romney that Team Obama wants to push. Which is that Romney is an out-of-touch rich guy without any real core, which means he’ll associate with anyone if he thinks it will further his ambition.”

***

As early as February 1967 – a year before the first 1968 presidential primary – some newspapers were raising questions as to whether George Romney’s place of birth [in Mexico] disqualified him from the presidency.

By May 1967, U.S. congressman Emmanuel Celler, a Democrat who chaired the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, was expressing “serious doubts” about George Romney’s eligibility…

“I am a natural born citizen. My parents were American citizens. I was a citizen at birth,” he said, according to a typewritten statement found in his archives…

In a paper in November aimed at clarifying presidential eligibility, the Congressional Research Service declared that the practical, legal meaning of “natural born citizen” would “most likely include” not only anyone born on U.S. soil but anyone born overseas of at least one parent who was a U.S. citizen.

***

“Governor Romney is not distracted, the Republican party is not distracted,” Gingrich said when asked about Trump’s claims that Obama was not born in the United States might not serve Romney’s candidacy well. “We believe this is an American born, job killing president.”

“Other people may believe that he was born somewhere else and still kills jobs, but that’s an argument over background,” said Gingrich, speaking in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel where he will attend a fundraiser expected to raise more than $2 million for Romney’s campaign.

“I’m happy to say I believe he was born in Hawaii,” Gingrich said.

***

As Romney continued to attack the president as “hostile” to business, he veered into new territory, passing along the story of a restaurant owner he met with in a closed-door roundtable who suggested adding a new provision to the constitutional requirements of the presidency: time in business.

“I’d like to have a provision in the Constitution that in addition to the age of the president and the citizenship of the president and the birthplace of the president being set by the Constitution, I’d like it also to say that the president has to spend at least three years working in business before he could become President of the United States,” Romney quoted the restauranteur as saying. “You see then he or she would understand that the policies they’re putting in place have to encourage small business, make it easier for business to grow.”

***

But the putative GOP presidential nominee’s proximity to America’s most famous birther is important in another symbolic way. Romney, even as he should be redirecting his campaign toward to the political middle after the primary yanked him to the right, is still trying to instill excitement among conservatives at the risk of alienating moderates.

Trump is far from a conservative icon, but his brash, tough-talking style drew enough GOP support that he briefly led the presidential primary field last year. That popularity isn’t lost on the Romney campaign which, eager to attract more grassroots support, is tempting small-dollar contributors with an offer to have dinner with him and the business magnate. The Republican rank-and-file might not quite be as excited about the prospect for a dinner-date with Romney alone…

That political dilemma for Romney is one that could repeat itself through Election Day. Next week, it could mean standing with evangelical leaders to denounce Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. In a month, he might have to deliver a speech to fiscal hawks touting the virtues of Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal. And before Election Day, he could visit the country’s border Arizona to reaffirm support for his hardline immigration agenda.

***

Via BuzzFeed.

***