Say, isn’t this starting to resemble a certain reality-game show on television? Or would I be fired for pointing that out? Last night, reports surfaced that casino and real-estate tycoon Donald Trump would endorse Newt Gingrich in Nevada today, just two days before the binding caucuses. This morning, both CNN and ABC say that Trump will now endorse … Mitt Romney:
Mitt Romney will receive Donald Trump’s presidential endorsement Thursday, sources with knowledge of the endorsement told CNN.
Trump will make the announcement in Las Vegas, two days before the Nevada caucuses.
ABC is a little more specific about its sourcing:
Donald Trump will endorse Mitt Romney in Las Vegas on Thursday, sources familiar with the decision tell ABC News.
A political aide in Trump’s office spoke directly with Mitt Romney by phone last night before Trump’s private plane took off from New York City to Las Vegas.
The call, sources say, was to inform Romney of Thursday’s endorsement, which will take place at a 12:30 p.m. event at the Trump International Hotel on the Las Vegas strip.
A contracting company used by the Romney campaign has been setting up for the event since Wednesday night.
This would be more than just a little embarrassing to the Gingrich campaign, which confirmed Trump’s endorsement to the Wall Street Journal last night:
Real-estate tycoon Donald Trump jetted into Las Vegas Wednesday night with plans to throw his unorthodox backing–and maybe even some of his fortune–behind Newt Gingrich‘s presidential campaign.
The announcement, confirmed by people within the Gingrich campaign, is yet more evidence of the widening gap within the GOP between the more insurgent conservatives who are jumping on the Gingrich bandwagon and the establishment roster of mainly elected officials who are now backing Mitt Romney.
So which is it? If ABC’s right and the Romney campaign is setting up the dais for the announcement, I’d tend to think that they have pretty solid information as to which way Trump will go today. It would be an interesting decision, given that Romney’s demurral from the proposed December 27th Newsmax debate scotched Trump’s attempt at further self-promotion in the Republican primary. It may also be that Gingrich’s attacks on Bain Capital and private-equity operations soured Trump on backing Gingrich.
On the other hand … who knows what Trump will say? Maybe he will go through all of this and announce an independent bid on Romney’s dime. I wouldn’t put it past Trump.
Update: Assuming this is accurate and Trump endorses Romney, it would seem to signal (as some have said in the comments) that Trump won’t go for an independent bid in the fall. That isn’t good news for Democrats, who would have to then hope that Ron Paul would give it a try, even though Paul would have almost none of the resources that Trump could use to make an impact.
Update II: The Washington Post confirms with four sources that Trump will endorse Romney, and also notes the “meh” Romney can expect to get from it:
Celebrity mogul Donald Trump will endorse former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in Las Vegas today, according to four sources. …
The endorsement, for all the media attention it has gotten, will likely make little difference to voters. A January Washington Post-Pew poll found that nearly two-thirds of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents said a Trump endorsement would make no difference in their vote. Moreover, somewhat more said it would be more of a reason to oppose than to support a candidate (20 to 13 percent).
The value for Romney isn’t so much that he’d get a boost from voters, but that he keeps Gingrich from getting one. And in this case, the endorsement helps to amplify the notion that Team Gingrich is in disarray.