Donald Trump: Genuine 'birther' or just furthering his personal brand?

Donald Trump has apparently embraced the 'birther' idea – that President Obama was not born in the US – but his motivation remains unclear.

Alex Brandon / AP / File
Donald Trump, shown here addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington on Feb. 10, has recently come out in support of the notion that President Obama was not born in the US.

Is developer/reality show star Donald Trump serious about running for the GOP nomination for president? Or is he just talking about running for president as a personal brand-building exercise?

So that people like us will write articles like this, raising his ubiquity quotient one iota more.

The question arises from Mr. Trump’s recent, very public semi-embrace of the birther movement, which holds that President Obama was not born in the United States and thus is not eligible to be president.

On Monday, Trump told Fox News that he was “really concerned” about Obama’s citizenship status, and that since he’d first mentioned the subject a few days before on “The View,” so many people had called him and told him shocking stuff that “I’m starting to wonder myself whether [Obama] was born in this country.”

For the record, Obama’s campaign released his birth certificate in 2008. Hawaii’s director of health – and numerous other state officials – have attested the document is genuine. Birthers say it’s a conspiracy, and the document is a fake.

Trump released his own birth certificate on Monday, proving that he, at least, was born in the good old US of A, on June 14, 1946, in New York City. Though we should point out that to a lot of Republican primary voters in the outlands, New York City might as well be Indonesia.

Many Republican strategists who actually want to defeat Obama in 2012, as opposed to build ratings for “Celebrity Apprentice,” have expressed exasperation with the birthers. Karl Rove, a Republican last time we checked, is one of these.

“We’ve got to be very careful about allowing these people – who are the birthers and the 9/11-deniers – to get too high a profile,” Rove said recently on Fox News.

So what’s Trump doing? Maybe he’s zigging to the right, to prove his credentials to GOP voters. That way they might not notice that he’s given money to Democrats in the past, for instance.

Some analysts think Trump is espousing birtherism because it might help him stand out in a crowded GOP primary field. They point to a recent Public Policy Polling survey which showed that 51 percent of likely Republican voters believe Obama was not born in the US.

But the sample used for the survey was very small for a national survey, others point out. Bigger national polls have produced other results. A CNN/Opinion Research survey released last August found that 57 percent of Republicans say Obama was definitely or probably born in the US.

It’s also possible that Trump noted the amount of ink Newt Gingrich has been getting for announcing that he is exploring the notion of establishing a presidential exploratory committee, and decided to show him how a real publicity master works.

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