Unless you live under a rock, you're probably aware that real estate mogul and master media manipulator Donald Trump is once again entering the GOP presidential fray. This time he's not contemplating a run at the White House or attempting to host a debate, but casting his lot for front-runner Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.
Predictably, the media has run wild with covering the Thursday announcement. In fact, the news was first misreported on Wednesday that Trump would endorse Romney rival, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, only to be re-reported that the endorsement would be for Romney.
But what does it actually mean for Trump to endorse a candidate?
The mere fact that this is even a story speaks to the foolish emphasis that some of us not just citizens, but of course media, put on the words of some people," says Michael Fauntroy, professor of public policy at George Mason University. "Donald Trump is not a serious political figure here in America."
Fauntroy says it's not "the kind of thing that's going to move the needle in one direction or the other."
He also faults the media for its blanket coverage.
"While it should be treated as an irrelevant statement by what I believe to be an irrelevant political figure, it will be given – and is being given – top of the fold treatment by some outlets and by some people," Fauntroy says.
Politically speaking, the public policy professor questions why Romney would want to visual of "an alleged billionaire endorsing a multi-hundred millionaire."
"Donald Trump is a clown and a sideshow," he says, adding that the media also showered disproportionate attention on comedian Stephen Colbert's creation of a super PAC.
"But at least he was doing something to call attention to the ridiculous rules for political action committees," Fauntroy says. "I have to even preface that by noting he has performed an important education function for some people in this country and Trump has done nothing of the sort. It's just a joke."
Trump first fueled speculation last year that he was considering a presidential run as a Republican candidate when he questioned whether or not President Barack Obama was born in the United States. It was a popular rumor among Tea Party enthusiasts that Obama was in fact ineligible for the office because he had not publicly released his long form birth certificate. Prompted by Trump's insinuations, Obama eventually did just that, laying the issue to rest.
But the attention Trump gained from the stunt, paired with what was perceived as a weak GOP field, led to Trump's leading some early polls for the Republican nomination. His flirtation ended with him ultimately deciding against running as a GOP candidate, but Trump has consistently hinted he may choose to jump in the race as an independent. That led GOP candidates, including Romney, to refuse to participate in a debate that Trump had been scheduled to host.
Presumably his endorsement of Romney means Trump is completely ruling out a White House bid in 2012, but with "The Donald," Americans have come to expect the unexpected.