Why Mitt Romney is grateful for Donald Trump's endorsement
The Obama team should not take this lightly – Trump may be rich, but he doesn't turn off blue-collar voters
AFTER intense speculation that he would plump for Newt Gingrich, the American property tycoon Donald Trump yesterday endorsed Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination – a significant boost for the former Massachusetts governor's bid for the White House.
At a press conference in one of his Las Vegas hotels, Trump said: "We really have an opportunity to do something great for the country. It's my honour, real honour, and privilege, to endorse Mitt Romney."
Just months ago, as he toyed publicly with announcing his own candidacy, Trump was bad-mouthing Romney. But that, he told reporters, was back before he had really got to know the Mormon millionaire.
Romney, who according to The Guardian "seemed as bewildered as anyone else over why he was standing alongside Trump", said: "There are some things you just can't imagine in your life. This is one of them."
He added a plug for The Donald's business empire: "Being in Donald Trump's magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight."
The two men took no questions jointly – and Romney had left the building by the time an awkward reporter asked Trump what Romney had felt when Trump last year questioned Barack Obama's birthplace. Trump ignored the query.
Trump's potential to embarrass the Romney campaign - with his cartoonish persona and erratic views, loudly expressed - led some pro-Democrat observers to receive the announcement with glee as a blow to Romney's credibility.
Incumbent Barack Obama's campaign greeted the news yesterday with a tweet linking not to an article rubbishing Trump but to Reuters' coverage. The message being, says Time magazine, that there is no need to satirise the announcement: Trump's endorsement can only harm Romney.
According to Lee Siegel at the Daily Beast, the endorsement unites two hard-hearted men. Trump is famous for firing people on his TV show The Apprentice; Romney for doing so in real life.
The very moment Romney declared, during a recent debate, that he would say "You're fired" to anyone who came to him with a Gingrich-like idea of colonising the moon was no doubt the moment when Trump, experiencing the thrill of self-recognition, decided to put his money on the Mormon from Massachusetts.
But, says Time, complacent "liberals and Democrats" would do well to take Trump more seriously: "He doesn't turn off the blue-collar voters, as Romney does… [He is] a different sort of rich guy in the public sphere. He is a rich guy from Queens."
Trump's earthy schtick may have more credibility with the US man-in-the-street than sophisticated observers would like to believe. But winning his backing was also smart for tactical reasons: Trump could still have decided to stand against Romney as an independent – or just damage his campaign by backing a rival.
While Romney fought hard for Trump's support, meeting The Donald cap-in-hand to request his endorsement last autumn, he did it quietly and preserved his public dignity - and the surprise he expressed in Las Vegas yesterday makes him look even more statesmanlike.
According to Time, it's a hat-trick: "[Romney] took a potential critic with a huge megaphone off the field. He deprived his rivals of any national media attention.
"And he saw his strategy of staying above the political circus vindicated. In the end, it did not take any clowning around on the candidate's part to win over the Republican party's great jester."