Speculation is running rampant among pundits today that Obama released his long-form birth certificate as part of a crafty plot to manipulate the Republican nomination process. He’s trying to build up Trump! He’s trying to freeze the race by diverting everyone’s attention! So it’s worth asking: What effect will today’s drama have on the GOP nomination contest?
It won’t boost Donald Trump; it won’t shut him up. It will make it marginally more difficult for the real candidates to get on cable news talking about anything else for a few hours, maybe a few days, which really doesn’t matter at this stage of the process.
Right now what really matters for presidential nominations are serious commitments from people who control serious resources: money, of course, but also blocks of activists. Or people who may not control, but can influence, large blocks of voters. What happens on the cable news shows or network news broadcasts isn’t entirely separate from that, but it’s only one battleground, and generally not the central one.
By the time we get to Iowa this winter, or even to the Ames straw poll this summer, all of this will be mostly forgotten. And rightly so. As far as the idea that Obama released the certificate in order to maneuver Republicans into acting ever more ridiculous and crazy, the evidence shows that they are already under heavy pressure to do this on their own in order to appeal to movement conservative activists. The President’s actions today don’t change that dynamic at all.