Donald Trump’s birth certificate strategy
“Of course I’d release it. In two seconds I’d release it. If I decide to run, I’ll absolutely release it,” Donald Trump said in an interview with The Daily Caller Thursday, referring to his own birth certificate. “I have it right on my desk. I have it right here, right now, right this minute. I am literally looking at it. Because, based on this I said, ‘do me a favor, get me my birth certificate.’ I have my original birth certificate right here.”
Donald Trump has been thinking a lot about birth certificates lately. Indeed, he has made questions about Barack Obama’s birth certificate a pivotal part of his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. And it appears to be working. One recent poll has Trump running fifth in the GOP field, just two points behind former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
“There’s a very clear niche in the Republican primary,” said longtime political consultant Roger Stone. “It’s a brilliant base-building move. There’s a very active, fervent subset of voters interested in this.” Stone, who has worked for Trump in years past, says he has no paid role in Trump’s current campaign, though he does allow that the two continue to “talk politics from time to time.”
Republican pollster John McLaughlin agrees that Trump’s remarks may be part of a larger, and potentially effective, campaign strategy. “Just like Obama won the nomination as the most anti-Bush candidate, the Republican nomination is going to be won by the most anti-Obama candidate,” McLaughlin said. “He’s positioning himself to be the most aggressive candidate against Obama. If you want to win a primary that’s the way you win a primary.”
For his part, Trump denies that raising questions about Obama’s birth certificate has anything to do with his own political ambitions. “No. Not at all. Not at all,” he said.
With that said, Trump launches into a passionate and detailed discussion of the subject. “We’ve studied it very closely. His family doesn’t even know what hospital he was born in. You know that, right? Do you know that? This is all fact. This is all in the records.”
The publicly-released records of Obama’s birth include a “short-form” certification of live birth created in 2007, a document adequate to apply for a U.S. passport. Yet, as Trump points out, Obama has never released his hospital-produced, “long form” birth certificate. “Here’s the thing: why doesn’t he release his birth certificate?” Trump asked. “If they have it, why don’t they release it?”
Asked if he believes Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961, as contemporaneous newspaper announcements suggest, Trump repeated the same line several times: “I want to see his birth certificate.”
Told that the current governor of Hawaii, Democrat Neil Abercrombie, has claimed he remembers Obama’s birth, Trump scoffed. “Well, I think it’s pretty unusual that … a governor currently sitting is going to think back to 50 years and say ‘I remember when he was born.’ Pretty unusual, right? He must have a pretty good memory.”
“I hope he was born in this country,” Trump said. “But the word ‘hope’ is not good enough because if he’s president, he has to be born in the country.”
Lines like this are unlikely to win Trump the endorsement of the New York Times editorial page. But according to consultants Stone and McLaughlin, they may help with primary voters. “It’s a brilliant stratagem in a multi-candidate field,” Stone said. “He just needs a plurality.”
Voters with questions about Obama’s birth could provide that margin. A poll conducted in last month by Public Policy Polling found that 51 percent of likely Republican primary voters don’t believe Obama was born in the United States. Twenty-one percent said they were unsure, while 28 percent said they firmly believe he was born here. Stone said he’s seen other private polls that show about one-third of primary voters feel “very strongly” about the issue.
So far, Obama and his political machine have done an effective job of controlling the issue in the mainstream press, and many think the president has deliberately avoided releasing his birth certificate so he could use the issue to paint conservatives as crazy.
John McLaughlin says that tactic worked well in 2008, but since Obama is far less popular now, and facing much greater scrutiny as a sitting president, questions about his birth certificate are hurting him. “To not put it out now, it’s like, ‘why won’t you put it out?’” McLaughlin said, adding that he personally believes Obama was born in Hawaii.
At this point, Donald Trump and Barack Obama have at least one thing in common: Both claim to have an original birth certificate, yet neither has publicly released one. Asked if he would release his now, before officially announcing for president, Trump doesn’t hesitate. “Nooo,” he said. “Why would I release it to you? I’ve never even heard of you.”