Call it the Clash of the Titans — the Wall Street titans, that is.   Both Mitt Romney and Donald Trump want to make the case for their candidacies based on their financial wizardry, but that’s where the similarities end.  Romney wants to focus on competence and a track record of executive success while highlighting all of the failures of Barack Obama over the past two years.  Unfortunately, the other titan in the race is forcing everyone to talk about birth certificates instead, and Romney has apparently had enough:

Mitt Romney forcefully said Tuesday night that he believes President Barack Obama was born in America and that “the citizenship test has been passed.”

“I think the citizenship test has been passed. I believe the president was born in the United States. There are real reasons to get this guy out of office,” Romney told CNBC’s Larry Kudlow the day after he formally announced that he’s exploring a run for the White House. “The man needs to be taken out of office but his citizenship isn’t the reason why.”

Kudlow asked Romney about the issue because Donald Trump — the billionaire real estate mogul — has been all over TV questioning whether Obama was really born in in the United States and is therefore constitutionally allowed to hold the nation’s highest office. Trump’s claims have driven the “birther” issue back into the national spotlight — and a recent Fox News poll found that 24 percent of voters believe Obama wasn’t born in the United States, while 10 percent aren’t sure.

Romney isn’t the first of the Republican hopefuls to push back against Trump’s birther focus, and the evident delight in the national media to focus again on an issue that voters obviously rejected in 2008.  Tim Pawlenty said much the same thing two weeks ago on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.  Both former governors want to focus on actual governing records, believing that Obama is vulnerable on the issues, and far less vulnerable on “who is he?” questions that didn’t gain traction when Obama actually was a mostly unknown quantity.

Trump, on the other hand, has very little to recommend him as a candidate other than his talent for self-promotion.  In a piece I wrote for CNN today that builds off of my post yesterday, Trump may need to rely on the freak-show quality that he has employed thus far in order to keep people from taking too close a look at who Trump is:

Trump’s fame comes from his highly leveraged real-estate and casino dealings starting in the 1980s as well as his three marriages,dabbling in professional wrestling over the past couple of decades, a new multilevel marketing organization that sells vitamin supplements and a television show that made “You’re fired!” into a Trump trademark.

None of this fits terribly well with the usual “family values,” fiscally conservative Republican mold, and yet the freak show is gaining some big traction early in the exploratory cycle for Republican presidential candidates. ….

Trump’s business bankruptcies include the Taj Mahal casino (1991), and the Trump Plaza Hotel (1992), in both cases losing half his stake in the reorganizations. Trump Entertainment Resorts filed for Chapter 11 in 2009, and in 2008 his Trump International Tower in Chicago defaulted on a $40 million loan.

His response to the last financial setback was both instructive and, well, entertaining. Trump blamed the global economic collapse and tried to have it declared an act of God to get out from paying back the $40 million — and then demanded $3 billion in damages from the bank for attempting to collect on the loan.

We had a professional-wrestler executive in Minnesota for four years, to our embarrassment.  Jesse Ventura was nothing more than a self-promoter, and his most notable accomplishment as governor was either taking a part-time job as a football announcer for the XFL while in office, or getting Democrats and Republicans so angry at his nonsense that they essentially agreed to cut him out of the budget process.

The 2012 election should hinge on real issues and deep questions about Barack Obama’s ability to handle the office.  The freak show is a distraction that damages the serious nature of Obama’s opposition — and don’t think the media isn’t eating it up, either.