When Donald Trump surprised everyone by endorsing Mitt Romney rather than Newt Gingrich, many wondered whether that would do more to hurt Romney in the long run rather than help him. Trump had briefly declared his intention to run and had spent most of his effort indulging the birthers, only to run aground when the White House released a certified copy of Barack Obama’s birth certificate a year ago. (The State of Hawaii also officially reaffirmed the accuracy of that record earlier this month to the State of Arizona, making it at least the third such public affirmation in the last four years.) The expectation was that Romney would hold Trump at arm’s length and that Trump would dial down the birther arguments for the election. Unfortunately for Romney, Trump has not backed down at all, which resulted in this moment over the weekend on the campaign plane with reporters:
The Obama campaign hit Romney over his connection to Trump, who will host a fundraiser this week in Las Vegas that is expected to raise more than $2 million for Romney and the RNC. Trump pled his case with the Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove, and as Grove and Jake Tapper report, managed to mangle the facts even further:
“A book publisher came out three days ago and said that in his written synopsis of his book, he said he was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia. His mother never spent a day in the hospital,” Trump told The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove.
As Grove pointed out, that’s not even an accurate re-telling of the latest birther “evidence,” in which Obama’s literary agency two decades ago published a catalogue of clients that included the false information that he had been born in Kenya. A woman named Miriam Goderich has since come forward and said the error was hers.
The Obama campaign is loving it, reports BuzzFeed:
But there is one group that can hardly contain its joy: Democrats, who see Romney’s forced embrace of the reality TV star as easy attack fodder.
The Obama campaign released a video early Tuesday showing some of Trump’s more outlandish comments set to circus music. The core of the Democrats’ attack is to raise questions about Romney’s character, contrasting his silence on Trump’s birther charges to John McCain’s rebuke to extremists in his party during the 2008 campaign.
The campaign has branded Trump “the birther-in-chief,” and Democrats have flooded reporters’ inboxes with clip after clip about Trump’s wild accusations.
But beyond simply mocking Romney and Trump, Democrats see the relationship as supporting a character attack on the presumptive Republican nominee.
Of course they’re delighted. It takes attention away from the economy and jobs, which plays directly into their distraction strategy. It’s the reason many had qualms about Trump’s involvement at all.
Team Romney has tried to make it clear that Romney himself isn’t challenging Obama’s eligibility, and Tapper notes that the campaign is also pointing out a double standard on supporters:
Senior Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said, “I can’t speak for Donald Trump, Gloria, but I can tell you that Mitt Romney accepts that President Obama was born in the United States. He doesn’t view the place of his birth as an issue in this campaign. We have many serious challenges facing this country dealing with jobs and the economy. That’s where we should center our- the discussion. And as I said, you know, Mitt Romney has made it clear that this is not an issue for him.
Fehrnstrom, asked about the campaign’s association with Trump, said, “Well, you know, not too long ago, Jay Carney, the spokesman for the White House made a statement which I think is correct, and that statement was that a candidate can’t be responsible for everything that their supporters say.”
That’s a reference to the “Hoffa Standard,” from Labor Day 2011, when White House press secretary Jay Carney refused to condemn incendiary remarks made by a labor leader attacking members of the Tea Party at an event where the president spoke.
Mitt Romney needs to practice a better response, because this is going to keep coming up. Whenever asked, he should respond, “President Obama was born in Hawaii and is eligible to be President. He’s just really lousy at it.”