Trump brings Romney into his reality show

Donald Trump talks to reporters prior to a news conference in Las Vegas. Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, with Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, where Trump says he will endorse Romney.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

(Commentary) The 2012 campaign season has been good to Donald Trump. GOP nominees came to kiss his ring and he has boldly hinted every few months that he will jump into the ring to run against President Obama if the field of candidates doesn't meet his standard.

Of course, a presidential run cannot interfere with the new season of his "Celebrity Apprentice" reality TV show -- which kicks off on Feb. 12 -- with contestants including the star of "Real Housewives of New Jersey," Teresa Giudice, and the "Incredible Hulk" Lou Ferrigno -- and concludes in May.

On Thursday, Trump was in Las Vegas, at the Trump International Hotel of course, to endorse his fellow super-rich businessman, Mitt Romney, as the Republican candidate for president of the United States.

Trump's role in the GOP nomination race seems like an extension to his reality TV show. He hired Romney and fired Newt Gingrich, who as of Wednesday night was rumored to be getting the Trump endorsement, and Ron Paul and Rick Santorum didn't make it into the finals. Trump maintained that the Gingrich camp was responsible for the swirl of speculation that he would endorse the former House speaker.

Trump attributed his Romney endorsement to shared anger over the U.S. being ripped off by other countries.

"You look at what's going on with China, you look at what's going on w the other OPEC nations and how they are absolutely destroying this country, and he's the only one who talks about it. So that was very important to me. I thought he did very well in the debates, that was very important... I think if he debates that well, I don't think Obama will fare well against him," he said to reporters prior to taking the stage with Romney and his wife, Ann.

During the official endorsement ceremony Trump described Romney as "tough," "smart" and "sharp," and that he was "not going to allow bad things to continue to happen tot his country that we all love." He could have been describing himself. 

This is the same Donald Trump who in April 2011 told CNN, "Well, Mitt Romney is a basically small-business guy, if you really think about it. He was a hedge fund. He was a funds guy. He walked away with some money from a very good company that he didn't create. He worked there. He didn't create it."

Romney accepted the endorsement, saying "there are some things that you just can't imagine in your life, this is one of them," and then quickly moved on to his campaign stump speech. He did not stick around to take any questions or pose for photos.

With the endorsement, Trump largely takes away the surprise ending that he would enter the GOP race. He said that if Romney is the nominee, he will not enter the field as a third-party or independent candidate. 

But he did say the he will hit the campaign trail for Romney. "I have a lot of people that like what I say," he said. The show goes on.

In a post-endorsement interview on CNN, Trump said, "I carry a lot of votes...from people who are tired of being ripped off."  Indeed, Trump may be able to help Romney bring over more of the Tea Party members who supported his aborted 2011 GOP nomination campaign.

It turns out, however, that Trump's endorsement, and in general those from celebrities or politicians, is of marginal value to the candidate. Among the Republican and Republican-leaning voters in a recent Pew Research Center survey, 20 percent indicated that they would be less likely to support a candidate endorsed by Trump, and only 13 percent said it would be more likely. Sixty-four percent said it wouldn't make any difference.

Full coverage: Campaign 2012

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