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Trump backs Romney: 'He's not going to allow bad things to continue to happen'

Real estate developer Donald Trump endorses Mitt Romney for president.

 

Donald Trump formally endorsed Mitt Romney for president on Thursday, describing the former Massachusetts governor as "tough" and "smart" and the best pick in the GOP primary.

Trump and Romney appeared together in Las Vegas to announce the endorsement, which drew heavy media coverage.

"It is a real honor and privilege to endorse Mitt Romney," Trump said in brief remarks. "Mitt is tough, he's smart, he's sharp. He's not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country we all love."

Romney said in response: "There are some things that you just can't imagine in your life. This is one of them," adding that it means a "great deal" to have the billionaire's support.

The endorsement follows a bizarre period of time in which several major news outlets -- including the New York Times and Associated Press -- had initially reported that Trump had been planning to endorse Newt Gingrich. The former House speaker had been one of only two candidates to agree appearing at a debate the "Apprentice" host had planned, but which never came to pass. Romney declined attendance.

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Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) said he didn't think the Trump endorsement matters, but added on KDWN radio that if Trump "wants to endorse the person who's most in line with his thinking with respect to the major issue of this economic problem that we're involved in, he should endorse Rick Santorum."

For their part, Democrats seemed to take a degree of joy in the Trump spectacle.

"It really wouldn't be surprising if Donald Trump endorses Mitt Romney, because they both like firing people, and they both made millions doing it" Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said on msnbc. "Donald Trump is such a cartoon character, no matter who he chooses, it's like Bugs Bunny endorsing ... It's really kind of a non-news event."

DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz tells MSNBC's Thomas Roberts that recent verbal missteps from Mitt Romney show that he has "no concern about people who are struggling."

It's reflective of the media whirlwind to have surrounded Trump's game of footsie with Republican politics over the past year.

Trump had initially thought about running for the GOP nomination last spring. He talked publicly about the possibility of running and even visited New Hampshire. The flirtation coincided with the broadcast of last spring's season of "The Apprentice" on NBC. (NBC is a co-owner of mnsbc.com, along with Microsoft.) Trump had initially promised to make clear his intentions in the show's season finale, but ultimately demurred, and made the announcement separately.

Trump had additionally been one of the most prominent figures to voice suspicions that President Obama had not actually been born in the United States, and, thusly, was constitutionally ineligible to be president. Obama eventually relented and released his long-form birth certificate on April 27, 2011, verifying he was born in Hawaii. Obama made light of the situation at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner on May 1, deriding the media for giving voice to “carnival barkers” like Trump, only to announce the next day that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a daring raid in Pakistan -- planning of which had been ongoing during the annual dinner.

But the discussion of "birther" theories over the course of last spring appears to have harmed Trump in the eyes of the public; Trump had a 26 percent favorable rating in a February 2011 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, and a 29 percent unfavorable rating. By mid-May, the point at which the real estate magnate announced he wouldn't be running, a Suffolk University poll found that Trump had a 70 percent unfavorable rating, while just 18 percent of Americans had a positive opinion of Trump.

It's also not incredibly clear what, if any, impact the Trump endorsement will have on the trajectory of the race, in Nevada's caucuses on Saturday, or beyond. Romney had already led, at 45 percent, in a poll of likely Nevada caucus-goers released Thursday. He's followed by Gingrich at 25 percent, Santorum at 11 percent and Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 9 percent.

Still, the reality television star continued to play an out-sized role throughout the 2012 cycle. All the Republican candidates visited Trump through the course of last summer with the exception of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

"I think his infusing himself into the dialogue really dumbs down and makes less consequential the very important issues that we must be discussing to get this country back on its feet again," Huntsman said on Fox News in December.

One of the most intensely covered media events of 2011 came when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin went out for pizza with Trump in Manhattan during a stop on her bus tour of the Northeast, a journey meant to stoke speculation about her own presidential aspirations. When Romney visited Trump, he snuck in and out of the billionaire's headquarters without being captured by staked-out cameras.