Romney and Trump

Mitt Romney has many failings, but he’s clearly a smart politician.  Thus, one really has to question what he’s thinking choosing to associate himself with Donald Trump at this time.  Chris Cilliza has a nice piece that concludes the ledger on this clearly comes out on the net cost side:

All of this Trump talk begs a simple question: Why is Romney associating himself with a man who is the public face of the debunked idea that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States and, perhaps more importantly, a man whose sole principle in life is self-promotion?…

The argument forwarded by defenders of the Romney-Trump alliance is centered on two ideas: money and the base.

On the money front, these defenders argue that Trump’s celebrity brings in a different kind of donor — including precious small dollar givers — that Romney might not otherwise attract. (The fact that the donation point — $3 — is so low is indicative of the belief within Romney finance world that Trump does have appeal among these small dollar donors.)

In regards to the base, Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody laid out the argument this way:

“Associating with Donald Trump gives Mitt Romney a way of being brash without being brash. Trump is popular with a certain portion of the GOP, the portion that Romney doesn’t connect with. Trump’s bravado is not necessarily a bad thing for Romney because it connects him to a flamethrower and his audience without having to throw the flames himself.”

True enough — on both fronts…

In terms of money, does anyone really think that Romney is going to have trouble raising the cash he needs to be competitive with President Obama?

When it comes to speaking directly to the base, it’s absolutely true that Trump’s brashness is more appealing than Romney’s stuffed-shirt business pragmatism.

But, poll after poll suggests that the conservative base of the party quickly aligned behind Romney once it became clear he was the nominee. The simple reality is that while Romney makes very few conservative hearts go pitter patter, the base of the Republican party so dislikes/distrusts President Obama that they are going to be with whoever offers an alternative to the current occupant of the White House.  [emphasis mine]

Romney’s task is not then primarily to unify his base but rather to reach out to independents. And, polling suggests Trump won’t help in that regard.

Okay, Romney’s not going to win or lose the election on Donald Trump, but really strikes me that aligning himself with Trump is not a good idea.  Though, I’m happy for Romney to have plenty more not good ideas over the next few months.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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