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GOP Hopefuls Genuflect Before Donald Trump

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The Republican candidates for president are making tracks to New York, to genuflect before Donald Trump.

There's no adequate way to describe how humiliating this is for New Yorkers. It was bad enough that every election season, the big names dropped by the Big Apple only when they wanted to raise money. Now we're New York City, home of the Donald Trump pilgrimage.

"Well, I had dinner last night with Jim Perry, I was impressed with him," Trump said the other day. We have a kingmaker who can't remember the potential king's first name.

Trump, who had a disastrous flirtation with a presidential candidacy last winter, now seems to be a required stop on the road to New Hampshire. The tangerine-haired reality show star says he's met with everybody but Ron Paul, which may give some voters a new appreciation of the merits of the Texas libertarian.

He had pizza with Sarah Palin, allowing Jon Stewart endless opportunities to make fun of the fact that Trump eats pizza with a knife and fork.

Mitt Romney was the contender du jour on Monday, although at least Romney was embarrassed enough to dodge the press.

"Both Governor Romney and I very much enjoyed the meeting," Trump said later. This was just about the only evidence that the get-together had actually had ever occurred. "Many things were discussed of national and international interest. We both look forward to future meetings."

It doesn't sound like a marriage made in heaven. But that's still more positive than some of Trump's previous statements about the former Massachusetts governor. "My net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney," Trump said back when he was a candidate himself. But Trump always says his net worth is bigger than everybody else's. It's always a cringe-inducing moment, in part because it's the kind of bragging kids are taught is impolite before they go to kindergarten, and in part because it's not always true.

Romney did make himself look good compared to Rick Perry, who dogged along with The Donald for lunch at a French restaurant and a fashion show at Trump Tower. This was not the kind of image we were expecting from the cowboy candidate's first visit. It should have been something involving steak and physical combat. Even paintball would have been better than the runway.

All this is silly, but there's also a policy component of sports. Candidates reach out to total strangers with whom they have no natural connection because they want to send some sort of message. After Perry got into trouble for having an immigration stance that was slightly compassionate, the ultra-awful Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, announced that the Texas governor had called him to discuss immigration matters. The message the Perry people obviously wanted to get out was that Rick appreciates the Sheriff Joe put-them-in-chains worldview.

And what do the Republicans hope to get from Trump? The only real impact Trump's presidential flirtation was his constant carping on make-believe evidence that the Barack Obama wasn't born in America. Birther movement redux? Wonder if that's the attraction.

Or maybe they're just seeking tips on Trump's real expertise: product placement. If we see Perry walk into the next debate holding a large package of Fritos, we'll know where the inspiration came from.