Mitt Romney's campaign is taking a page out of President Obama's reelection playbook by raffling off a dinner with himself and Donald Trump, hoping to catch the same magic that saw the Obama campaign reap some $9 million from small-dollar donors seeking an invite to the big George Clooney fundraiser.
As the Obama campaign tries to score points with Romney's connection to the country's most famous birther, and GOP establishment types wonder why the soon-to-be GOP nominee has so closely associated himself with the reality star, the differences between a Trump endorsement and a Clooney endorsement are readily apparent. There's also Trump's high negatives versus Clooney's high positives, and a TV personality whose "Celebrity Apprentice" ratings are in decline versus a movie star who earned an Oscar nod this year for a best picture nominee that did well at the box office. Neither are strangers to publicity and knowing how to maximize it, but when it comes to politics Trump is unpredictable where Clooney is savvy, even when getting arrested.
There's some irony in that the Obama campaign, while fully embracing show biz figures as fund-raising surrogates, is pushing criticism of Romney's connections to a celebrity, reversing the usual trend of Republicans slamming Democrats for their red carpet support. It was Clooney who said, rather famously, of Obama, "I'll give you whatever support you need — including staying completely away from you," knowing full well of the risks of a pol's association with Hollywood; it's hard to see Trump picking up on the wisdom.
In this period of campaign sideshows, what Bill Clinton called "silly season," it could be that Romney is banking on maximizing contributions before casting himself in the general election as a moderating influence in the party. As Will noted, it's a head scratcher as to just what the Trump vote is, but there's some doubt that his nod will really hurt Romney, either. Or it could be that both sides gain: the Romney campaign will be reaping a windfall in Las Vegas, while the Obama team will have neutralized, to some extent, the line of attack on the President as the "celebrity" candidate.
Update: The Romney-Trump raffle details are here. The winner gets airport transportation on the Trump vehicle, a night at the Trump International in New York, a tour of Trump Tower and dinner with Trump and Romney. As you can see from the ad at right, the campaign is playing up Trump to the hilt.