Byron York gets the readout from inside the Romney campaign on why Mitt won’t disavow Donald Trump and tell him to pack up his birther act and get lost. One key reason, Romney aides say, is that they believe so doing would distract from Romney’s efforts to make sure the campaign is all about the economy. The Romney team, according to York, will not allow itself to get sucked into a “one sided” repudiation game which is “designed to distract voters.”

Apparently it has already been forgotten that Romney advisers spent days blasting Obama over Hilary Rosen’s comments about stay-at-home moms, even though Rosen was not an official campaign surrogate. But that aside, the Romney campaign has decided that condeming Trump would be making the same mistake John McCain made when he stood up to fringe cooks within his party:

Another reason Romney is wary of such concessions is that John McCain tried them, and they didn’t do him any good. For example, in February 2008, a local Ohio radio host, Bill Cunningham, introduced McCain at a rally in Cincinnati. In the introduction, Cunningham referred to Obama three times by his full name, which at the time some Republicans feared would open them up to unspecified accusations of intolerance. “At one point, the media will quit taking sides in this thing,” Cunningham said, “and start covering Barack Hussein Obama.” McCain immediately apologized and disavowed Cunningham’s remarks. Eleven months later, of course, Obama took the oath of office, beginning, “I, Barack Hussein Obama…” In retrospect, the Cunningham episode looked ridiculous. But at the time, it contributed to an image of McCain in retreat.

You see, when McCain stood up to people within his own party who questioned Obama’s nationality or intentions towards America, it made McCain look weak, or “in retreat,” in the face of a liberal media that is aiding and abetting Obama. Romney won’t be making that same mistake, by God!

But what Trump is up to isn’t your garden variety political misstep, like Rosen’s gaffe. One of Romney’s chief fundraisers and surrogates has been regularly suggesting the President has engaged in an elaborate plot to deceive the American people about his true nationality and his legitimacy as president. People are treating Trump as if he’s about as threatening as a circus clown, but these ideas are toxic and racially tinged, and Romney’s unwillingness to dump Trump is already inviting a backlash. The group Color of Change has launched a campaign to pressure Romney to dump Trump, circulating a petion that says:

Please join us in calling on Mitt Romney to stop working with Donald Trump, condemn his racial attacks on President Obama and reject the use of race as a wedge issue in his campaign.

Yet if York is right — and he seems to be very well sourced with the Romney camp — Team Romney has decided that doing this would represent surrender. Romney’s unwillingness to disavow Trump is actually a sign of his strength! Now it all makes sense.