New York Grabs Limelight in GOP Presidential Battle

You can't say New York isn't playing a part in the Republican presidential primaries. Several roles, in fact.

Role one is, of course, as a spigot of big-money campaign donations. That's particularly true for Mitt Romney who was in the city on Wednesday for a series of fund-raisers in Manhattan. One was at the home of Steve Schwarzman, the head of Blackstone Group LP, the world's biggest private-equity firm. Schwarzman made news in the summer of 2010 when he compared Obama administration efforts to raise taxes on firms like Blackstone to Hitler's invasion of Poland.

While Romney was raising cash, the Democratic National Campaign Committee hired an airplane to drag a sign across the sky making fun of Mitt's now-famous "bet you $10,000" remark at last week's Republican debate. But we hardly needed to be reminded that Mitt is rich, or a favorite of the Wall Street crowd that regards him as one of their own.

Role two is our status -- strange for a state so blue -- as the home of several once and maybe-future Republican presidential candidates. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was preoccupied with a press conference calling for more gun control, a reminder that if he ever actually made a run, it would certainly be as an independent. George Pataki has returned to wherever he was before the series of hopeful yet hopeless forays he made into New Hampshire. Rudy Giuliani popped up again this week on CNN, telling Piers Morgan that Newt Gingrich could make "a broader connection than Mitt Romney to those Reagan Democrats" since he wouldn't "have this barrier of possible elitism."

Giuliani's semi-backing would probably count as bad news for Gingrich, since the former mayor has a long history of bad political judgment -- the worst of which, of course, was his own presidential campaign. (Gingrich and Giuliani also make a bad combo on the marital front, having racked up six wives between them.)

Role three is New York's dubious distinction of being home to Donald Trump. This week Trump backed out of his plan to moderate a presidential debate, depriving the nation of the chance to see a battle to the death between Gingrich and Rick Santorum, the only other candidate who agreed to be part of the spectacle. We'll never know what Trump was going to wear. What color the hair would be tinted for Iowa in late December.

Trump's version of all this was not that his presence had sent even candidates as out to lunch as Michele Bachmann fleeing. No, it was that he had refused to calm Republican fears that he would run himself as an independent.

"I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again!" Trump concluded.

Saving America would not, of course, take place until the next season of Celebrity Apprentice had run its course. This year we have had a number of Republicans who seemed to regard running for president as one long extended book tour. But only Trump made it clear that he regarded saving the nation as a less pressing responsibility than determining which washed up celebrity evinces the best talent for marketing bathroom tissue and promoting salsa dip.

Now that this particular episode has come to a close, there are only two things we can be absolutely sure of: First, Donald Trump will not run for president in any way that involves being required to file financial disclosure forms. Second, he'll find some other way to insert himself into the process. If all else fails, next summer he'll rent a blimp to fly over the Republican convention in Tampa, with streamers announcing that Trump will not accept a vice-presidential draft. Never. Don't beg! He's made up his mind! Stop crying! He'd love to help out, but he has a Miss Universe pageant to run.