Updated at 8:30 am EDT
There often comes a time, in the course of an election campaign, when a candidate must find some distance between himself and the comments of a supporter working at cross purposes.
For Mitt Romney, heading into a campaign fundraiser in Las Vegas tonight featuring billionaire Donald Trump, this may not be that time.
The event comes just days after Trump, the real estate developer and reality television star, sought to revive questions about President Barack Obama’s birthplace — and thus, citizenship, and qualifications to serve as president.
Trump, who had raised this question last year when he was considering waging his own campaign for president, suggested in a May 24 interview with the Daily Beast that a literary agent who once worked with Obama and promoted his best-selling memoir as the work of a man born in Kenya had the story right. “He didn’t know he was running for president, so he told the truth,” Trump said of the agent.
Obama’s release of his long-form birth certificate in April 2011, confirming his birthplace as Honolulu, is old news. (It was old even then — Hawaii had confirmed as much long before.)
But not for Trump.
Bloomberg’s John McCormick, traveling with Romney campaigning in the West this week, notes Romney’s response to Trump’s newest birthplace comments and cites Ben LaBolt, spokesman for the Obama re-election campaign, as saying: “Donald Trump has become the birther in chief… This once again raises questions about whether Mitt Romney will stand up to the extreme elements of his party or embrace them.”
(Update: The Obama campaign was quick to launch a video comparing two Republican nominees — Romney and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican candidate for president in 2008 — “who stood up to the voices of extremism in their party.”
It contrasts Romney’s reluctance to call Trump out with McCain’s response to a woman at a campaign town hall in 2008 who asserted that Obama is an Arab — “No ma’a,m,” McCain replied then, “he’s a decent family man, citizen, who I just happen to have disagreements with.”
The ad continues with multiple clips of Trump pressing the birthers’ theory of Obama’s citizenship.)
Romney answered a question about Trump last night for reporters aboard his campaign plane as he was leaving California for Colorado, en route to Las Vegas today.
Do Trump’s comments on the question of Obama’s birthplace cause him any pause?
“I don’t agree with all the people who support me,” Romney replied, “and my guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in.”
Chalk that up as a pass, heading into another fundraiser.