Did Donald Trump just outmaneuver President Obama on the so-called “birther” issue? It sure looks that way at first glance. In interviews Trump for weeks has been musing about whether the nation’s chief executive was really born in America. Now Obama has released a detailed Hawaii birth certificate in an effort to end such questions.
In politics, anytime you force an opponent to react to you, as opposed to talk about what they want to talk about, you’ve often scored a point. “Winning!” as that unemployed former sitcom actor would say. So in that sense – which admittedly is pretty narrow – Trump may have managed to do something none of the other GOP presidential hopefuls have yet accomplished.
Trump himself seems to feel that way. He was triumphal in an appearance before reporters in New Hampshire just after he’d heard the news.
“I am really honored, frankly, to have played such a big role in hopefully getting rid of this issue,” said Trump.
That’s adroit – Trump pats himself on the back for raising vague questions about Obama’s citizenship, and then runs around to the other side and aligns himself with Obama in terms of let’s-move-on-to-more-important-things. No wonder he’s doing so well in polls versus other potential Republican candidates.
But here’s the thing – we’re pretty sure Obama’s political team is not that sorry that Trump is doing well.
Consider if from their point of view. A substantial portion of Republican voters remain suspicious of Obama’s origins. It’s an issue that one way or another was going to surface in the 2012 campaign. If Obama releases his birth certificate now, yes, that may help Trump. But Trump is currently the nor’easter of GOP politics – a big wind that’s rattling all the other contenders.
Obama's advisors believe the developer/reality show star is unelectable because his unfavorable rating among independents and the electorate at large is so high. A recent Gallup survey found that 64 percent of registered voters said they would definitely not vote for Trump for president.
Yet he has enough strength among GOP voters to keep more serious candidates (we’re looking at you, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty) from gaining momentum.
So the longer Trump remains a GOP frontrunner, the better for Obama. That’s how the Democratic political theory might go, anyway – and if you don’t think political consultants are that Machiavellian, you haven’t watched enough Kennedy School of Government seminars on late-night C-SPAN3.