Donald Trump will be endorsing Mitt Romney later today, not Newt Gingrich as the entire political world believed up until a few hours ago. This raises a single question: What in the world is the Romney camp thinking?
Well, I spoke with two Romney supporters outside the campaign who tried to offer some explanation. Well, they say, the GOP didn’t want Trump to run as a third party candidate. (But was there any real risk of this? And who knows if Trump won’t change his mind?) Well, it’s clear that Newt Gingrich very much wanted the Trump nod. (But why not allow Gingrich to hug the political grenade?)
It is, as with the delay in releasing Romney’s tax returns, a politically foolish move that suggests the Boston campaign headquarters staff could use some fresh eyes and keener ears. Obviously — at least to the entire press corps, most voters and 99 percent of Republican office holders and candidates — Trump is a noxious, self-serving figure who is not a serious political player, but rather uses politics to further his own financial interests. He’s crass and ostentatious, hardly the model for rich or poor.
It’s unseemly for someone like Romney, who is running as a serious executive, to associate himself with Trump. It undermines Romney’s message that he is the responsible adult in the GOP presidential race.
Moreover, Trump is certain at some point to say outrageous and embarrasing things, which then become messes for the Romney team to clean up. He is all risk and no gain. After all there can’t be many actual voters who think: “Gosh I was going to vote for Newt Gingrich but now that Trump is going with Romney I’ll switch.”
We’ll see how enthusiastically Romney receives the endorsement. It probably won’t hurt Romney much in the GOP primary at this point, but it could become a plus for Rick Santorum. (No, I’m the grown-up here!). More important, Romney’s press coverage has been rather terrible lately, whether you think fairly or unfairly so. This is not going to help. It will perpetuate the growing perception that campaign is too insulated and lacks antennae to determine when danger lies ahead.
The Romney camp should take February’s light election calendar as a gift. Double down on conservative and press outreach. Spruce up some policy proposals. And if compelled to get endorsements, go for respected, not reviled endorsers.