Does anyone care? Ed and I have written endless posts about how stupid we think Birtherism is, but in the end is anyone going to vote for or against Romney because of this sideshow? My strong suspicion is that those who care enough about the birth certificate to think of it on election day already hate Obama with a ferocious passion and could give you two or three hundred reasons off the top of their heads for why he needs to go. Swing voters won’t give a hoot vis-a-vis unemployment and gas prices, and especially low-information swing voters might not even know that there’s a “natural-born” eligibility requirement in the first place. The only people who worry more about O’s origins than hardcore anti-Obama grassroots conservatives are, ironically, center-right professional commentators who don’t trust grassroots conservatives, which is why Peggy Noonan or Scarborough or whoever inevitably reach for the smelling salts when Trump starts pandering to the base. And as for the argument about Romney being thrown “off-message” or “losing the news cycle” because he’s busy fielding Trump questions instead of attacking Obama on Solyndra, again, who cares? By my measure, the average “news cycle” these days lasts around 16 hours and is shrinking by the minute. Come September, we may be down to 30 minutes or so. Romney will hit Obama 20 more times on public equity before the campaign is through and, with voters’ attention spans being what they are, none of it will register at all unless it comes within, say, a month of election day. Trump’s just making sure that the forgettable bilge that consumes most of the election coverage right now is a little bilgier today.
As for why Romney keeps him around when he’s intent on wasting time on nonsense, The Atlantic sums it up:
Strategists, elites, and cable news types disdain birtherism (for good reason!). And Romney himself has never embraced it. But voters? Although there has thankfully been less polling on the topic since the release of the birth certificate, birther beliefs appear to have remained resilient, barely ticking down in a January poll, for example. Folks who were willing to indulge silly ideas before remain willing to do so now. Without a groundswell of disapproval from Republican and independent voters, why should Romney bother to disavow Trump? McCain would have made the condemnation; the media would have oohed and aahed; and voters would still have voted for Obama. The Donald himself made this argument Tuesday, tweeting, “[Obama] keeps using @SenJohnMcCain as an example, however, @SenJohnMcCain lost the election. Don’t let it happen again.” For once, the man has a point.
Trump bashers of all political stripes have often reacted incredulously to Romney’s intimacy with the mogul, even outside the context of birtherism. After all, is there a single undecided or Obama-leaning voter who will change his or her vote to Romney because an outlandish television celebrity tells them to? Surely not — but the same logic applies here. If voters are so inclined to disregard Trump, there’s no downside: his support won’t turn them off Romney, either. On the other side of the balance sheet, the cash that Romney collects at the Vegas fundraiser is perfectly legal tender that can feed the campaign coffers.
Cynical but logical. Tolerating Trump lets Romney show the most ardent anti-Obamaites that he’s willing to “take it to The One,” even if it makes the Steve Schmidts of the world cry big salty tears. Meanwhile, everyone else rolls their eyes or shrugs. But content is content, so here’s some cable-news drama to liven up the afternoon followed by the new ad from Team O that won’t move the election needle even a fraction of an inch. Whither the Republic?