Trump's Birther Strategy Makes Sense if You Understand its Purpose

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Check that. It not only makes sense, it is masterful. Let me state for the record that in my opinion, any assertion or belief that President Barack Obama was not born in the US is insane. It isn’t, however, Donald Trump’s intent to prove that one way or the other. Once you understand what the Donald is trying to do, he appears shockingly brilliant.

Here is the problem. Imagine that you are the Donald Trump of a few months ago. You want to run for President in 2012. You don’t want to wait for 2016, and that eliminates running as a Democrat. Your first problem is how to secure the Republican nomination. Forget about the general election. If you get that far, you can pivot in your positions like most nominees do.

That problem of how to win the Republican nomination must have seemed very difficult to many in Trump’s camp. The last New York Republican who tried, Rudy Giuliani, enjoyed a high positive rating in the country and Republican party prior to trying to run for President. He was the mayor of New York City through the tragedy and aftermath of 9/11, and had that performance to highlight his leadership skills. That should have made him a strong contender. It didn’t.

From the very beginning of the race for the 2008 Republican nomination, Giuliani’s conservative bona fides were questioned. Conservatives throughout the country are generally suspicious about Republicans coming out of the northeast or California. Giuliani had also been pro-choice, pro-gay rights and pro-gun control. The combination of regional bias plus Giuliani’s stance on social issues was too much for the conservative electorate.

Donald Trump’s positions on those issues are/were very similar to Giuliani’s.  At a time when the activist and most conservative wing of the party is asserting itself (the Tea Party), how is someone like Trump supposed to contend for the Republican nomination? Sure, he could make a number of speeches indicating he has changed his stance on many of those issues, but that didn’t work so well for Mitt Romney. Romney is still paying the price for appearing to be not just a flip-flopper, but a rank opportunist who will say anything the voters want to hear to get elected.

So how do you appeal to the Conservative base when you have a history of Liberal stances on the issues and you don’t want to appear to be a flip-flopper? The answer is: become a birther. The conservative base loves the birther conspiracy. Go to any conservative internet discussion forum like Free Republic and you will find not only a lot of talk on the issue, you will see that most of the folks discussing the issue are (or at least seem) convinced that President Obama was born in Kenya.

The conservative base has responded to Trump’s birtherism, and in a big way. He sits atop a recent poll of Tea Partiers regarding their Presidential preference. In the same poll, he ranked a close second to Mitt Romney when all Republicans were polled. This is amazing stuff for a New York Republican with questionable conservative credentials.

Through uttering seemingly bizarre birther statements and accusations, Trump has made himself a credible threat to win the Republican nomination. Not only that, the level of political aptitude this strategy demonstrates in terms of Trump’s team has to be a worry not only to the rest of the Republican field, but it has (at least it ought) to have gotten the attention of the President’s re-election team. If Trump’s team can overcome the obstacles that they have in order to get him toward the top of the crowd vying for the Republican nomination, early though it may be, what else can they accomplish? Suddenly, Trump’s birtherism doesn’t seem so funny.