Is Donald Trump trying to sabotage the Republican Party?

The discredited 'birther' stuff and more insinuations about Obama’s character won't appeal to the slice of the electorate Mitt Romney needs to win in the campaign's waning days. We’re pretty sure Donald Trump knows that.

Courtesy of Reuters
Donald Trump offers to pay $5 million to the charity of President Obama's choice if Obama releases his college and passport records, in this still image taken from video released on YouTube by Trump on October 24.

Is Donald Trump trying to sabotage the Republican Party? We ask because it doesn’t look to us as if he’s helping GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the moment.

Picture this scene: You’ve got Mitt making a final, earnest appeal to voters concerned about the economy. Then The Donald comes bursting through the door like Kramer into Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment, shouting about college records and charities and $5 million. Will the wavering voters stay put? Or will they flee down the hall while saying “we’ll think about it” over their shoulders?

OK, let’s back up a bit and explain. If you’ve read this far you’ve surely heard of Mr. Trump’s stupendous, world-changing, election-settling (to him) offer that he’ll give $5 million to a charity of President Obama’s choice if Mr. Obama will release his college applications and passport records. Trump hyped this for days. The reaction, in general, has been less than kind.

Barbara Walters opined that he was making a fool of himself. Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin brought up his past donations to Democrats and called him a “tea party pretender.” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) of California offered him $50 if he would stop trying to make the election about himself.

“If at any point you seriously considered Donald Trump for president, please study the error of your ways in quiet, private contemplation,” tweeted Jim Geraghty of the National Review.

The reasons for Democratic animus are obvious. Trump’s bringing up the discredited “birther” argument all over again, implying that there’s stuff in Obama’s past that discredits him from holding the Oval Office. But why the negative reaction now from the right? Trump led GOP polls way back at the beginning of primary season, if you remember. He’s long questioned the circumstances of Obama’s birth.

Yes, but now the election is only days away. At this point, everyone who truly believes in the birther stuff is already going to vote against Obama. Bringing it up all over again can’t help Mr. Romney make any gains on that score.

Romney’s final arguments instead seem calibrated to woo voters who went for Obama in 2008 and still like him but are disappointed in the job he’s done. They are unhappy that the economy’s still sluggish, that partisanship still rules D.C., and so on. The Romney campaign has been saying in essence that it’s OK to feel that way: You can like Obama and yet still vote against him.

The discredited birther stuff and further insinuations about Obama’s character are not calculated to appeal to this slice of the electorate. If anything, it will drive them away. That would be Politics 101, and we’re pretty sure Trump is shrewd enough to know that. That’s why we’re asking whether he’s actually trying to sabotage Romney’s chances.

Other theories: He’s just trying to get more attention for “Celebrity Apprentice,” and he doesn’t really care about politics; he’s a secret Obama supporter angling to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of State in a second term; or “Donald Trump” is actually a performance artist working in character, like Stephen Colbert.

It’s also possible he’s tired of all the attention and he’s trying to stop Trump coverage the only way he knows how. As Lloyd Grove writes in The Daily Beast, it’s been fun to cover Trump, but in light of the latest developments, it’s best to stop writing about him. At least until after Election Day.

“We at The Daily Beast offer out own announcement [to Trump]: effective immediately ... we will ignore you and your hot air for the foreseeable future,” wrote Mr. Grove.

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