It's funny how the only two Republican presidential hopefuls who consented to be photographed with Donald Trump are Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. Perhaps they both have the strongest sense of the power of images -- even when that image means being photographed with a fake-tanned-and-blow-dried fake presidential candidate. With Palin out of the race, Gingrich is the candidate who's wrapped the reality star in the warmest embrace. The former House Speaker not only met with Trump, he held a press conference with him on the launch of a new policy-minded reality show. Mitt Romney, by contrast, was embarrassed enough by the inexplicably mandatory meeting with Trump that he snuck in and out of the building without reporters' noticing. The rest of the candidates fall somewhere between Romney and Gingrich in the Trump-love scale.
Name: Newt Gingrich
Trump meeting date: December 5
Level of Trump visibility: High. Gingrich held a joint press conference with Trump and announced the reality star had agreed to create a version of his reality show The Apprentice for 10 young poor kids.
On Trump debate: Buy. Gingrich was the first to sign up.
Trump's rating of candidate: Gingrich's "amazing" campaign "really resonated with so many people."
Name: Michele Bachmann
Trump meeting date: Bachmann has met with Trump four times; this photo of her exiting Trump Tower was taken October 13. (All photos via Associated Press unless otherwise noted.)
Level of Trump visibility: Moderate. Bachmann's campaign allowed photos of her with Trump's building but not with Trump himself.
On Trump debate: Hold. Bachmann says she's not sure whether it's a good idea.
Trump's rating of candidate: A "real worker bee," he told The Washington Post.
Name: Mitt Romney
Trump meeting date: September 26
Level of Trump visibility: Low. Romney managed to duck photographers by going into Trump Tower through a subway entrance, Politico explains. Campaign staff made waiting reporters think that Romney was about to arrive, when he was already inside with the reality star. CBS News' Sarah Boxer tweeted the photo at left of reporters just before they learned they'd been fooled:
On Trump debate:
Hold. Romney's campaign hasn't said whether he'll attend. Update 4:28p.m.: Sell. Romney told Fox News Tuesday afternoon he's not going to Trump's debate.
Trump's rating of candidate: "Spectacular."
Name: Rick Perry
Trump meeting date: September 14
Level of Trump visibility: Moderate. Perry was photographed outside Trump Tower but not with Trump.
On Trump debate: Hold. The campaign hasn't decided whether to attend.
Trump's rating of candidate: "Forceful and strong."
Name: Herman Cain
Trump meeting date: October 3
Level of Trump visibility: Moderate to high. Cain held a press conference outside Trump Tower.
On Trump debate: Cain has suspended his campaign.
Trump's rating of candidate: Victim of a "very ugly witch hunt."
Name: Sarah Palin
Trump meeting date: May 31 (Palin started it all!)
Level of Trump visibility: High. The two talked to reporters together and shared some chain restaurant pizza.
On Trump debate: Sell. Palin is not running for president.
Trump's rating of (non-) candidate: "She loves this country."
[Note: Rick Santorum has said he'll go to the Trump debate. He has not -- yet! -- met with Trump in New York. Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul want nothing to do with the debate.]