Just after clinching the Republican presidential nomination last week, Mitt Romney returned to Nevada, a state he won in the February presidential caucuses, to celebrate. But his return was less than triumphal.
On May 29 on a CNN program, eccentric billionaire Donald Trump, a sometime Romney supporter, renewed his comments about President Obama’s birth certificate:
“You won’t report it, Wolf [Blitzer], but many people do not think it was authentic,” Trump said. “His mother was not in the hospital. There are many other things that came out and, frankly, if you would report it accurately, I think you’d probably get better ratings than you’re getting, which are pretty small.”
Later that day in Las Vegas, Romney appeared at a fundraiser on the same stage with Trump but stayed silent on Trump’s birtherism.
Also on that stage were Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, all three also silent.
In the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Steve Sebelius criticized Krolicki, Sandoval and Heller for not counseling Romney to distance himself from Trump.
“They could have said it nicely, telling Romney that, as fellow Republicans, they support him,” Sebelius wrote. “That they’ll vote for him. And that they would go to literally any other place in Las Vegas. But not that building, not with that man.”
Around the nation headlines appeared such as this one in the Arizona Republic: “Romney clinches, gets upstaged by ‘birther’ Trump.”
In the Washington Post, Dana Milbank wrote, “The time has come for Mitt Romney to prove it once and for all: Is he or is he not a unicorn? Let me stipulate that I have no proof that Romney is a unicorn, and indeed I want to believe that he is not. But I haven’t seen proof of this because he has not released the original copy of his long-form birth certificate.”
The Milbank article was reprinted in the Chicago Tribune alongside a photo of Sandoval and Romney.
Syndicated columnist Jules Witcover wrote that Romney missed an irreplaceable chance, akin to Bill Clinton’s 1992 denunciation of rapper Sister Souljah for encouraging interracial killings or Barack Obama’s 2008 break with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright for denunciations of the United States.
Witcover wrote, “But he [Romney] declined, when confronted by reporters, to rebuff Mr. Trump, observing, ‘I don’t agree with all the people who support me. … But I need to get 50.1 percent or more.’ Instead, he thanked Mr. Trump ‘for twisting the arms that it takes to bring a fundraiser together.’”
The Romney campaign responded by releasing his own birth certificate. That provoked a round of commentary on the fact that one of his parents was not born in the United States. His father, former Michigan governor and 1968 U.S. presidential candidate George Romney, was born in Mexico. That dispute further moved the campaign dialogue from issues like the economy that Romney would have preferred to discuss.
Then the New Orleans Times Picayune reported that some of Romney’s potential running mates have their own birther problems.
“But, as Romney may learn as he winnows the field of candidates to serve as his running-mate, two of the individuals most often named as being under consideration—Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio—have been targeted by a certain strain of birthers who contend that neither man is constitutionally eligible to serve as president or vice president because, while they were both born in the United States, their parents were not U.S. citizens at the time their sons were born.”
From coast to coast, the campaign discussion was on things Romney didn’t want it on.