LAS VEGAS, Nevada — After a day consumed by coverage of Donald Trump's birther crusade, the much-hyped Mitt Romney fundraiser at Trump International Hotel appears to have ended rather anti-climactically.
Despite the attendance of some the most memorable and unpredictable figures of the GOP primaries — including Trump, Newt Gingrich, and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson — the remarks stayed focused on Romney's candidacy, and the nomination he clinched Tuesday night with a victory in the Texas primary, according to a pool report.
Still, the fact that Romney celebrated the occasion in the presence of two of his party's most provocative and polarizing characters was a stark reminder of the nominee's refusal thus far to pick fights with the right wing.
"This has really been a special day and a special evening," Trump told attendees. "It's been amazing the amount of money we have raised."
He continued, according to the pool report, written by the Huffington Post's Jon Ward:
Trump then launched into an ode to Romney, and gave a nod to his
finally crossing the 1,144-delegate threshold: "1,144: you know what that is. Well in about an hour or so that number will be superceded and we will have effectively our nominee. He will be the man and he will carry us to victory, but much more importantly than us he will carry the country to victory, because that's what we need.
As Romney stood to Trump's left, his face obscured by Trump's shadow in the harsh lighting, Trump tore into China, and into Obama's handling of relations with China.
"They look at us. They laugh at us. They think we're stupid. When he's president they will no longer think we're stupid," Trump said of Romney.
Trump also made a few interesting comments about U.S. war policy: "We have wars. We get nothing from them … We leave Iraq. What do we get out of it? They're having a field day with the second largest oil reserves in the world. We get nothing."
In total, Trump spoke for only three and a half minutes. The campaign declined to say how much money was raised at the event.
But while the program stayed on message in the ballroom, Gingrich had few reservations about weighing in on the story of the day while standing in the lobby outside. Speaking to a crush of reporters, Gingrich took questions about Trump's assertion that the president has orchestrated a massive coverup to hide the fact that he was born outside the U.S.
“The Republican Party’s not distracted. We believe that this is an American-born job-killing president. Other people may believe that he was born somewhere else and still kills jobs, but that’s an argument over background,” he told reporters at Trump International Hotel shortly before the event.
Asked whether he thought the birther allegations were racist, Gingrich pushed back.
“Nobody runs around and asks whether Col. [Allen] West was born in the United States. He’s an African-American, you know. He’s a congressman. Nobody runs around and says was Tim Scott born in the United States. He’s a congressman. He’s an African-American," he said. "So the idea of asserting that any charge against Obama somehow manages magically in the media to get back to racism, I think it is just one more device to protect Obama.”
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.