As billionaire Donald Trump put his celebrity status behind a Las Vegas fundraiser for Mitt Romney last night, neither man addressed questions the real estate developer and reality television star raised in the past week about President Barack Obama’s birthplace.
The fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel was designed to yield about $2 million, occurring on the night Romney sealed the Republican presidential nomination by winning the Texas primary. He now has more than the required 1,144 delegates.
The president called Romney today to congratulate him on securing the nomination, saying he looked forward to “an important and healthy debate about America’s future,” Obama’s re-election campaign said in an e-mail.
The Las Vegas fundraiser included former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who ended his own White House bid on May 2.
“He’s going to be an absolutely great president,” Trump said of Romney. “He’s going to turn this country around. He’s going to create jobs like you haven’t seen for many, many years, since we were great. We were a great country. Soon we won’t be a great country at all. We have to do it now. Mitt Romney will make us a great country again.”
Trump said the nation is struggling to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression because consumers and businesses are uncertain about their prospects. The Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence fell in May to 64.9, the lowest level in four months, according to data released yesterday by the New York-based research group.
Lack of Confidence
“The country has no confidence,” Trump told several hundred people gathered at the fundraiser. “Business leaders have no confidence. We are in very, very big trouble.”
Trump also said he is backing Romney because of the former Massachusetts governor’s aggressive rhetoric about dealing with China.
“They look at us, they laugh at us, they think we’re stupid,” Trump said of the Chinese. “When he’s president, they will no longer think we’re stupid.”
Romney thanked Trump for the boost as he took note of securing the nomination through yesterday’s vote in Texas.
“We finally got there,” he said, calling the moment an “honor and a privilege and a great responsibility.”
Trump persists in pressing doubts on whether Obama was born in the U.S. While saying he hasn’t discussed the matter with Romney, Trump expressed skepticism in an interview yesterday about the long-form birth certificate Obama, 50, released in April 2011 that showed his birthplace as Honolulu.
“There are many, many questions from different sides as to the authenticity of the birth certificate,” Trump said on CNN.
He also dismissed a birth announcement for Obama in August 1961 in a Honolulu newspaper, saying it could have been falsified to get the benefits of U.S. citizenship.
“It was something done by many people even though they weren’t born in the country,” he said of the placement of birth announcements.
In a May 24 interview with the Daily Beast website, Trump touted biographical information prepared by a literary agency that once worked with Obama that said he was born in Kenya. A former employee has said she made the error.
“He didn’t know he was running for president, so he told the truth,” Trump said of that information.
Romney, 65, declined on May 28 to condemn such statements by Trump, 65, when asked about them.
“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,” Romney told reporters.
His aides have said the candidate doesn’t question that Obama was born in Honolulu.
Obama’s re-election campaign has responded by seeking to depict Romney as lacking leadership for not being more critical of Trump’s statements.
“Mitt Romney’s continued embrace of Donald Trump and refusal to condemn his disgraceful conspiracy theories demonstrates his complete lack of moral leadership,” Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, said in a statement.
“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?” Cutter said.
Obama’s campaign also released a web video yesterday contrasting Romney’s response to Trump with the reaction of Senator John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, at a campaign event when a supporter of his called Obama “an Arab.”
“No, ma’am,” McCain replied, calling Obama “a decent family man” and a “citizen.”
Romney’s campaign is also raffling off a meal in June with Trump, the host of “The Celebrity Apprentice” on NBC, as a fundraising pitch.
Trump endorsed Romney on Feb. 2, with the two men making a joint appearance at the same hotel that hosted yesterday’s fundraiser. Romney at the time was in a battle for front-runner status in the Republican race.
Gingrich told reporters at yesterday’s event that he doesn’t think Trump’s comments about Obama’s birthplace are creating a disruption for Romney.
“Governor Romney’s not distracted,” he said. “The Republican Party’s not distracted. We believe that this is an American-born, job-killing president. Other people may believe that he was born somewhere else and still kills jobs.”
Gingrich said it isn’t his place to tell Trump what to say.
“Far be it for me to suggest to the Donald what he should do,” Gingrich said. “I just know it’s hopeless to suggest anything to him about what he should do.”
Romney has more fundraisers in California this week. He had raised $100 million through April 30, according to Federal Election Commission reports, less than half the $222 million collected by Obama’s campaign. The president also had 12 times as much in his campaign account as Romney, $115.2 million to $9.2 million.
Some Democrats, though, have expressed concern about the impact of super political action committees that are backing Romney, which can take in unlimited donations from corporations and individuals, and pro-Republican nonprofits that keep their donors secret, such as Crossroads GPS, which is spending $25 million on anti-Obama ads.
As part of his Nevada visit, Romney also met with Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson at the Venetian hotel, a Romney aide not authorized to publicly discuss the matter said in confirming an earlier report by CBS News.
Adelson helped keep Gingrich’s presidential run viable by funding a super-PAC that backed him. He and family members contributed $21.5 million to the group, Winning Our Future, according to FEC records.
None of those family members had given money to Romney or the super-PAC backing him as of the end of April. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, each have given $30,800 this year, the maximum allowed per calendar year, to the Republican National Committee, which is helping Romney in his general election bid.