He has already very publicly met with Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and, today, Mitt Romney. (A date with Herman Cain is upcoming.) The Boston Globe calls him a "GOP kingmaker." Is it Roger Ailes? No, it's fake presidential candidate and reality star Donald Trump. Trump enjoyed a very brief trip to the top of Republican primary polls by accusing President Obama of being born outside the U.S. and thus an illegitimate president. Trump has met with a large chunk of the Republican presidential field -- but why? He's not actually powerful within the Republican Party. He's not a big Republican fundraiser -- in fact, he's given a lot of money to Democrats. He's not a conservative or libertarian policy wonk -- Michelle Malkin said he had "built his entire empire in defiance of core Tea Party principles." (He even wrote a letter to Nancy Pelosi calling her "the best.") Trump was humiliated after Obama released his long-form birth certificate, when Trump had been claiming his researchers had found evidence it did not exist. So what can the Republican candidate possibly get out of meeting with him?
Romney's decision to meet with Trump (pictured above with Miss Universe contestants) is all the more striking given how much smack Trump has talked about Romney. In April, Trump said Romney was "going to lose." As the Boston Globe's Matt Viser notes, the reality star belittled Romney on CNN for being not even that rich. "I'm a much bigger business man and have much, much bigger net worth... I mean, my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney."
Of course, the real size of Trump's fortune is the subject of much dispute. Nevertheless, the campaigns seem to think there's some there there. The meeting with Trump this month came at Perry's request, The New York Post's Dareh Gregorian reports. The fancy dinner overlooking Central Park was "obviously about the presidency," Trump's spokesman told the Post. "Everyone wants Mr. Trump's support."
Los Angeles Times' James Oliphant hypothesizes that it has something to do with Trump's remaining grassroots support, his frequent TV punditry, and his money. (But again, Trump might not actually have all that much money, and sometimes he gives it to Democrats.) The Associated Press' Beth Fouhy reports that Trump's aggressive attacks on Obama could offer a lesson to the candidates, even if they don't adopt the content of that criticism. National Journal's Sarah B. Boxer reports that Trump recorded some robo-calls backing Republican Bob Turner in the New York special election to replace former Rep. Anthony Wiener. "This is Donald Trump, and I'm not calling to fire you, as we say on The Apprentice," the recording said. "I'm calling to fire you up!" It seems most likely the candidates are trying to figure out how to fire up voters, but it'd be surprising that they need Trump to figure out how to do that. After all, as Trump told the Post, "This is the most important election this country has ever had. Except for some of the biggies."
Update: It looks like Romney decided he couldn't get much out of a Trump photo-op after all. NBC News' Chuck Todd tweets that Romney "avoided cameras recording any kind of Trump-Romney meet-n-greet" because they were "at odds over [the] photo-op." The National Review's Katrina Trinko reports that a Romney aide stood by one entrance to Trump Tower -- leading the 15 to 20 media outlets waiting to record the event to cluster there. But Romney came and went at a different door. CBS News' Sarah Boxer tweeted this photo of the journalists before they knew they'd been fooled: