“You know, I don't agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don't all agree with everything I believe in. But I need to get 50.1 percent or more and I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”
-- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney talking to reporters about Donald Trump’s skepticism about President Obama’s nativity.
Donald Trump is the monster truck show of American politics: large, loud and impossible to ignore.
Tonight, Trump will hold his first fundraiser for Republican Mitt Romney. Romney will also be joined at Trump’s Las Vegas casino by another oversized political personality, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The day carries extra weight because Romney will technically be clinching the GOP nomination tonight with a Texas primary victory.
There’s plenty of downside to appearing with the two men. Both have said things in the past that increase the difficulty of Romney’s task. And both are guaranteed to say things between now and Nov. 6 that will make it harder still, probably repeatedly.
But Romney is locked in a dead-heat with an incumbent president and very much needs to bind up his party. While opposition to President Obama is largely enough to unify Republicans this year, polls continue to show that there are a substantial number of holdouts on the Red Team while Democrats are more united behind Obama.
Obama has been stroking the Democratic base for many months. Romney, whose moderate politics and mild manner annoy hard-core conservatives, needs to show some love to the stars of the populist right. Along with Trump and Gingrich, Romney needs the help of Sarah Palin, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum.
Remember that the chief aim of the Obama campaign is to get independent voters, including conservatives, to conclude that there is little difference between the candidates. Romney is already making inroads among moderate suburbanites, but needs the help of these blue-collar champions to shore up his standing with the middle of the middle class.
Obama opened the general election season with a pair of attack ads on Romney. Both are character attacks aimed at making Romney a villain to blue-collar voters. Trump, Gingrich and the other populist conservatives can help Romney make his case that he may not be one of them, but he would govern in their interests.
But as with all such political calculations there are trade-offs. Trump may help Romney win in recession-ravaged Macomb County, Mich., but could hurt him in more affluent precincts in places like Bucks County, Pa. or Henrico County, Va.
On the one hand, Trump is a reality show host who managed to turn a presidential exploration process into a publicity blitz for his NBC series. On the other hand, this man, continually derided in the public square (George Will called him a “bloviating ignoramus” on Sunday), has juice.
How else to explain how Trump managed to force a sitting president of the United States to hold a press conference in which he displayed his birth certificate?
Team Obama portrayed this embarrassing moment as a victory for the president since it showed him standing up to a bully and say they revel in the whole “birther” issue because it reveals the racist and xenophobic impulses Democrats believe lie at the heart of opposition to the president.
In fact, the Obama campaign is pushing hard on the “birther” thing today, releasing a Web video raising the issue and trying to tie Romney, who very explicitly says he believes Obama was born in Hawaii, to Trump’s views on the subject.
(Trump remains publicly skeptical about the president’s biography, pointing out that even in the 1990s Obama’s publicists were touting his African nativity in a bid to add some international flair to his books.)
This is in the same vein as the president’s new straddle on gay marriage. Something that looks like a defeat -- in that case being forced to wriggle into a new contortion on same-sex unions – is said to be an actual victory because it exposes the wickedness that Obama Democrats say lies at the heart of conservatism.
This is mostly spin. It’s never a good day when the commander in chief feels obliged to show his paperwork at the demand of the host of “Celebrity Apprentice.” But the spin is also partly true.
Romney needs the enthusiastic support of conservatives, including the independent-minded folks who populate the Tea Party. If they come to believe Obama’s charge – that Romney will sell them out to help the establishment – it could suppress turnout.
But if Romney stands too close to Trump, Gingrich or Santorum, he will lose credibility with the small sliver of persuadable, moderate voters who will make all the difference. Romney is staking his bid on reassuring voters about “day one” of a Romney presidency. It would not be helpful for swing voters to imagine Trump as part of this scenario.
Romney is still healing wounds from an intensely negative primary process. The appearance with Trump and Gingrich is part of that. Still to come are the two men who lasted the longest against Romney: social conservative Santorum and libertarian Ron Paul.
The soon-to-be Republican nominee needs their help and needs it in fast fashion.
Santorum has offered the flattest endorsement possible of his former rival and is still gearing up for the rollout of his own general-election role. The later that occurs and the more Santorum demands in recompense for his actual support, the harder he will make it on Romney.
Trump and Gingrich are going easy on Romney – a closed-door fundraiser and public, enthusiastic endorsements early in the cycle. Will Santorum do as much?
And Now, A Word From Charles
“That is rubbish. There wasn't even a resolution. There was a presidential statement. In fact, it wasn't even a presidential statement, meaning the president of the Security Council. It was only a presidential press statement. And it was -- in other words, it has no -- Security Council resolutions are worthless to start with. These are less than worthless. The statement has no power at all, no force in law. And in fact, the Russians weren't condemned directly. The language was weak.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com.