Trump Criticized by Republicans for Focusing on Obama’s Birth, School Work

Donald Trump has been stealing attention from campaign issues and candidates with his focus on President Barack Obama’s birth certificate and school grades, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain said on network talk shows today.

“There’s a lot of things Mister Trump can be proud of, but some of this rhetoric and this focusing on the president’s birth, I do not think is the way for us to win the White House,” Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Trump has suggested he may announce a Republican presidential candidacy on or after the May 22 season finale of “Celebrity Apprentice,” the New York real estate developer’s NBC reality television show.

Trump has questioned whether Barack Obama was born in the U.S. and whether he was eligible to be president. He’s also questioned the president’s school grades, suggesting Obama may have gotten special treatment to gain admission to colleges, including Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude.

McCain, an Arizona Republican, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program that he didn’t think Trump would become the new face of the Republican party.

“We have very serious candidates, and I think that if Mister Trump wants to run, he’s welcome to run,” McCain said. The Arizona senator said the U.S. needs a “national conversation” about issues such as the debt limit and unemployment, and not a debate on Obama’s college transcripts. “All of this is so unnecessary.”

‘Tough Sale’

Referring to reports that Trump used salty language in an April 28 speech in Las Vegas, Graham said that “most Americans don’t want their president to go around saying the f-word.” While Trump “has a lot to offer,” Graham said the developer “will have a tough sale in South Carolina.”

Obama on April 27 released a long form of the birth certificate showing he was born in Honolulu. After release of the birth certificate, Trump said he was “proud” of prompting the president to act. Obama said it was time to stop being “distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers” in remarks to reporters about the document.

Obama also ribbed Trump in remarks at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last night.

“No one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than ‘the Donald,’” Obama said.

White House Casino

Joking about what kind of change Trump might bring to the White House, Obama showed a big-screen image of the “Trump White House Resort and Casino,” with a pink neon sign, girls, cocktails and Jacuzzis on the lawn.

Trump, in a call to Fox News today, said he hadn’t expected to be the center of attention in jokes at the event, according to Politico.

“I didn’t know that I’d be virtually the sole focus,” Trump said. “I guess when you’re leading in the polls that sort of thing tends to happen.”

Seth Meyers, a cast member on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” gave the dinner’s keynote speech and addressed Trump’s potential candidacy.

“Donald Trump often talks about running as a Republican, which is surprising,” Meyers said. “I just assumed he was running as a joke.”

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Representative Ron Paul have formed committees to explore a presidential bid.

Potential Candidates

Potential Republican candidates also include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, of Georgia; former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008; former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee; Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana; and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who stepped down last month as U.S. ambassador to China.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who won office last year with support from Tea Party backers, said today on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he won’t “under any circumstances” be part of a Republican presidential ticket in 2012.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Forden in Washington at sforden@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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