Romney's association with The Donald overshadows his presidential campaign


Mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump has revived the debate about Obama’s birthplace, writes LARA MARLOWEin Washington

MITT ROMNEY has finally shed the “presumptive” that has since April preceded the words “Republican nominee” on Tuesday night. By winning more than 70 per cent of the vote in the Texas primary, Romney surpassed the 1,144 delegates he needs to be anointed at the Tampa convention, 90 days from now.

Romney’s triumph was a low-key affair, marked by a one-paragraph statement from his campaign headquarters in Boston and tarnished by a flap over his friendship with the property mogul and reality television star Donald Trump.

“I am honoured that Americans across the country have given their support to my candidacy and I am humbled to have won enough delegates,” the statement said.

Romney had spent the day campaigning in Nevada, where he minimised the extent of the economic recovery in a talk with coalminers. “Yes, things are getting a little better in a lot of places in this country,” Romney admitted, “but it’s not thanks to [Obama’s] policies. It’s in spite of his policies.”

When he descended from his plane in Las Vegas, Romney was literally overshadowed by a 757 jet with the name “TRUMP” painted in huge letters behind him. A Romney campaign email last week offered a chance at “Air transportation in the Trump vehicle . . . lodging at the Trump International Hotel Tower New York” and dinner “with Donald Trump and Mitt Romney” to donors of $3 or more.

Before teaming up with Trump at Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas for an event that raised $2 million in campaign funds, Romney had lunch with Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner who single-handedly kept Newt Gingrich’s failed campaign afloat. Adelson intends to spend tens of millions of dollars more on the presidential campaign, but has not yet endorsed Romney.

Meanwhile, Trump was giving multiple television interviews reviving his status as chief spokesman for the “birther” movement which claims President Barack Obama was not born in the US. He had been silent for more than a year, since Obama produced his Hawaiian birth certificate in the White House press room, then ridiculed him at the White House correspondents’ dinner.

“I never really changed; nothing’s changed my mind,” Trump told CNBC, “and by the way . . . you have a huge group of people. I walk down the street and people are screaming, ‘Please don’t give that up’.”

Trump claims a book published by Obama in the 1990s described him as “born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia”, that his grandmother says he was born in Kenya and the hospital has no record of Obama’s mother’s stay there.

On CNN, Trump insisted that a lot of people “do not think it was an authentic certificate”. He accused US media of not reporting the issue, but declined to say who “a lot of people” are.

The conservative columnist George Will had earlier expressed the mainstream Republican view of Trump. “What voter is going to vote for him [Romney] because he’s seen with Donald Trump?” Will asked on ABC.

“The cost of appearing with this bloviating ignoramus is obvious, it seems to me. Donald Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your IQ can be very low and you can still intrude into American politics.”

The Obama campaign released a video of the previous Republican candidate John McCain repudiating “birther” allegations in 2008. Trump tweeted that Obama “is practically begging him [Romney] to disavow the place of birth movement, he is afraid of it and for good reason”. McCain lost the election, Trump added.

Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, said: “Mitt Romney’s continued embrace of Donald Trump and his refusal to condemn his disgraceful conspiracy theories demonstrates his complete lack of moral leadership ... If Mitt Romney lacks the backbone to stand up to a charlatan like Donald Trump because he’s so concerned about lining his campaign’s pockets, what does that say about the kind of president he would be?”

As the Trump onslaught continued, Romney avoided reporters’ questions. He had justified his friendship with Trump on Monday, saying: “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 per cent or more and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”

The Trump episode has strengthened the Obama campaign’s contention that Romney is an ambitious and unscrupulous politician who will do anything to reach the White House.

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