That’s the message Team Romney sent yesterday when they refused to comment much on Donald Trump, according to Byron York. After watching John McCain play the “repudiation game” in 2008 while Barack Obama and his campaign leveled a flotilla of negative ads against the Republican nominee, they have no intention of following suit. Instead, they want to keep their focus on jobs and the economy, the subjects that Team Obama has worked so hard to avoid:
Romney aides believe that cooperating with Democrats and media figures who are demanding a Trump disavowal would most certainly lead to more calls for more disavowals of other figures in the future — leaving Romney spending as much time apologizing for his supporters as campaigning for president. Team Romney views it as a silly and one-sided game designed to distract voters from the central issue of the race, which they remain convinced will be President Obama’s handling of the economy.
By one-sided, they mean not only that Obama has not disavowed SuperPAC contributor Bill Maher for a number of Maher’s statements that were particularly insulting to Republican women. They also mean the press, with, as Team Romney see it, questionable associations of its own. Has David Gregory, moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” repudiated his colleague Al Sharpton, the MSNBC host with a decades-long record of incendiary statements and actions? And has, say, the New York Times columnist Gail Collins repudiated her colleague Charles Blow, who once wrote to Romney, “Stick that in your magic underwear”? Romney, his team believes, understands that the calls for him to repudiate Trump over the issue of birtherism — and future calls to repudiate this or that supporter next week or next month over some other issue — are at the core all about politics.
Another reason Romney is wary of such concessions is that John McCain tried them, and they didn’t do him any good.
To some extent, this seems like an attempt to make a virtue out of necessity. Romney can’t tell Trump to keep quiet, and even if he managed to do so, the damage has been done — to whatever extent damage has been inflicted at all. Jim Geraghty asked that basic question earlier today on Twitter:
Can anyone find a single voter who says they were ready to vote for Romney, but now won’t vote for him because of Trump?
That’s the point Allahpundit made yesterday, too, as well as a number of our commenters on my earlier post. For most people, Trump’s obsession doesn’t even make the radar, but Romney going on the defensive would certainly get their attention. Trump can raise money, especially this early in the cycle, and it won’t make anyone convert from Romney to Obama. That could change if Trump continues his rants in October, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the media will seek Trump out for that purpose in the final days of this campaign, but will it really have any impact? The people who support Trump’s accusations are already voting for Romney, even if it’s cast as a vote against Obama. Voters who find it so offensive that the comments of a fundraiser would change their vote are almost certainly already Obama loyalists. Everyone else wants to get job creation back on track and fix the federal budget. The more that Obama and his team focus on Trump, the more likely they are to lose votes simply for lack of seriousness.
I’d guess that Obama loses more net votes over his comments about “Polish death camps” than he gains, net, from Donald Trump’s antics.