LAS VEGAS — The competition for opulence on the fabled Las Vegas strip is fierce, and the towering Trump International Hotel, with its twinkling gold-plated exterior and plush interior design, plays to win.
The hotel’s namesake and owner, business magnate Donald Trump, thinks he’s betting on a winner as well.
If there was any lingering belief to the rumor that had circulated widely yesterday evening that Trump was throwing his weight behind Newt Gingrich to be the next U.S. president, the enormous “ROMNEY” sign that greeted us in the pressroom off the ornate Trump International Hotel lobby buried that notion.
The pressroom was draped in velvet blue curtains with no fewer than six snappy American flags acting as a stately backdrop. Special guests were seated in rows closest to the podium, including the former First Lady of Nevada, Dema Guinn. A gaggle of press photographers stood poised on an elevated platform behind the guests, their gigantic camera lenses all pointed to the front of the room. After a friendly black Labrador Retriever took a preventative sniff of our bags, we made a beeline to the first row of seats reserved for the press and soaked in the scene. Mitch Potter, Washington Correspondent for the Toronto Star, turned to us from his chair next to ours and said of our environs, “It looks like a final episode of The Gong Show.”
Donald Trump, sporting reality television’s most talked about hair, entered the room closely trailed by Mitt and Ann Romney. The couple looked far more relaxed and well-rested since we had last laid eyes on them, in what was a difficult week for the Romney campaign in South Carolina.
“Mitt is tough,” said Trump. “He’s smart. He’s sharp. He’s not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love.”
Trump then turned over the podium to Romney. Romney thanked Trump succinctly, drew attention to the very real foreclosure crisis in Nevada, and his plan to reverse these kinds of trends. In closing, Romney recapped his credentials, not missing a chance to inject a bit of humor. “I spent my life in the private sector—Not quite as successful as this guy, [gesturing behind him to Trump] but successful nonetheless. Sufficiently successful to understand what it takes to get America to be the most attractive place in the world for innovators, entrepreneurs and job creators.”
While it was made clear that there would not be a Q & A segment of the press conference, Trump did reappear in the back of the pressroom after he and Romney exited the front of the room, and took questions from the floor. The following UW Election Eye video captured some of his comments about his decision to endorse Romney, as well as a little tease about his own presidential aspirations:
Following the brief press conference, Romney supporters dispersed into the hotel lobby.
Steve Fellows, a Las Vegas CFA, was all smiles as he worked his way out of the blue velvet encampment. Fellows felt Trump’s endorsement of Mitt Romney was a given. No other candidate had Romney’s “business acumen,” he said.
When we asked if the governor’s electability was a concern, Fellows said he only cared about electing “the right guy for the job” and after all the “political garbage” was over with, Romney was that person.
Carlos J. Gil and his family, visitors from Florida, snapped photos together in the lobby. They had been vacationing in Utah, but decided to swing over to Las Vegas after hearing about the announcement two days ago.
Gil, too, felt Romney was the best choice for fixing the economy. His dual experience in government and the private sector is a “strong combo,” he explained.
Gil immigrated to the United States from Cuba in 1961 and now owns a real estate company with his wife. We asked how he felt when Newt Gingrich accused Romney of being the most “anti-immigrant” candidate.
“I was kind of offended when I heard that,” Gil recalled. He doesn’t see much to the claim–after all, Romney’s father grew up in Mexico.
“[Romney] is a true leader,” Gil said, “He loves this country as much as we do.”
Ilona Idlis contributed to this post.