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The ritual Trump Primary

Are Republicans eager to appeal to birthers? Do GOP candidates believe this is an indirect way to reach "Celebrity Apprentice" viewers?
Donald Trump Speaks To GOP Women's Groups
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 28: Chairman and President of the Trump Organization Donald Trump speaks to several GOP women's group at the Treasure Island Hotel &...
After Rudy Giuliani's ridiculous remarks this week, NBC's First Read this morning declared, "[I]t's time to say that he's officially entered Donald Trump territory." That's true, though I thought it was interesting that the First Read crew didn't feel the need to explain what "Donald Trump territory" is.
The meaning was obvious enough to go unstated. Trump's most notable contribution to the political discourse is the loathsome "birther" conspiracy theory, which effectively turned the reality-show host into a punch line for a sad joke. Though the political world may have once taken Trump seriously, he discredited himself though his bizarre antics -- and now Giuliani is cultivating a similar reputation for himself.
That said, as Politico reported, Trump's buffoonery has apparently not shed his political relevance altogether.

Scott Walker met with Donald Trump in Trump Tower for 45 minutes on Thursday. Trump told POLITICO that Wisconsin's Republican governor requested the meeting, and that it was an "enjoyable" discussion focused on "where the country is going" and "how poorly we're perceived throughout the world." ... A Walker spokeswoman confirmed the meeting. Trump has met with several of the potential 2016 candidates, including a golf outing with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and a sit-down with former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).

Trump went on to hint about his own interest in the 2016 presidential race -- he's not running, but he seems to enjoy pretending -- though the fact that Walker "requested the meeting" with him no doubt helped inflate Trump's ego.
What's less clear is why, exactly, this informal Trump Primary exists.
In case anyone's forgotten, in the 2012 presidential race, Mitt Romney was only too pleased to pal around with the television personality. The two hosted joint events, and when Trump was ready to formally endorse the Republican candidate, Romney went out of his way to stand at Trump's side.
Two years later, at least according to Trump, he not only met with leading GOP candidates, Republican officials also asked him to help the party by personally recording robocalls. He even boasted at the time that his robocalls are "listened to more than anybody else's robo."
There's no way to know whether the self-aggrandizing boasts were rooted in fact, but a year later, it's nevertheless true that Trump is sitting down for private meetings with three leading Republican presidential candidates, and it's entirely possible the parade of White House hopefuls will continue to reach Trump's office in the coming months.
It's not at all clear why. I've long hoped that that the political mainstream would eventually see Trump as a strange carnival barker who long ago forfeited the right to be taken seriously as a credible national figure -- and yet, there was Scott Walker yesterday, giving Trump a private audience.
Are Republicans eager to appeal to birthers? Do GOP candidates believe this is an indirect way to reach "Celebrity Apprentice" viewers?
I'm at a loss to explain why a credible presidential candidate would give this guy the time of day.