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Donald Trump steals limelight from Romney campaign

May 29, 2012|By Seema Mehta
  • Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney walks off of his campaign plane -- past Donald Trump's plane -- after landing at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney walks off of his campaign… (Justin Sullivan / Getty…)

LAS VEGAS — Tuesday should have been a milestone moment for Mitt Romney -- after a primary battle that went on longer than nearly everyone expected, he was poised to finally clinch the GOP nomination. And he tried to turn the page on attacks by Democrats over his record as the head of a private equity firm by unveiling a new argument that President Obama is hostile to business.

But then came The Donald.

Romney was scheduled to raise as much as $2 million with Donald Trump at two events Tuesday evening, but his public schedule was designed to avoid highlighting his relationship with the controversial mogul, who continues to espouse disproven theories that Obama was not born in the United States.

That was a challenge from the moment Romney landed at Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport. As Romney’s chartered plane taxied down the runway, a private plane emblazoned with Trump’s surname sat parked near the terminal. Romney’s staffers tried to move photographers and reporters into a position where they could not see Trump’s shining-black aircraft as Romney alighted from his plane. They were not successful, and the first images of Romney arriving in Las Vegas and quickly beamed around the nation showed Trump’s plane over his shoulder.

Things went downhill from there. Shortly before Romney’s public rally with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Rep. Joe Heck, Trump went on CNN and continued to argue to Wolf Blitzer that notices of Obama’s birth published in two Hawaii newspapers in 1961 were false and that the long-form birth certificate that Hawaii produced was also not legitimate.

“Now, you won't report it, Wolf, but many people do not think it was authentic,” Trump said. “His mother was not in the hospital. There are many other things that came out. And, frankly, if you would report it accurately, I think you would probably get better ratings than you're getting, which are pretty small.”

The combative exchange went on for a few minutes, with Trump repeatedly arguing there were “many” people that disputed the document’s authenticity, but declining to name any when Blitzer pressed him. Trump also said the Hawaiian governor who released the certificate was a Democrat, when in fact she is a Republican.

Trump also gave interviews to CNBC and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The matter has long been considered settled by most mainstream Republicans, and pundits of all stripes have questioned the wisdom of Romney associating with Trump, especially as he pivots to the general election campaign and tries to woo moderate voters. George Will, a conservative columnist, called Trump a “bloviating ignoramus”’ on Sunday on CBS’ “This Week.”

Romney has long said that he believes the president was born in the United States. Reporters aboard his plane Monday asked him about the matter.

“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 replied. “But I need to get 50.1% or more and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”

Tuesday was not the first time Romney’s campaign has struggled to manage relations with Trump. When the host of the television show “The Apprentice” planned to stage a debate just days before the Iowa caucuses, Romney respectfully declined, saying his schedule was full. When Trump endorsed Romney in February, the announcement lasted mere minutes, neither man took questions and the campaign downplayed the nod.

But Trump being Trump, he wandered his casino resort just off the Las Vegas Strip, expounding on his thoughts about Romney and the presidential campaign to reporters at length before and after the event, while Romney retreated behind a curtain.

seema.mehta@latimes.com

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