Why Donald Trump Matters, And Doesn't Matter

If you watched Twitter or cable all day, it was easy to conclude that Donald Trump ruined Mitt Romney's big day.

The blogosphere was abuzz as commentators declared the Romney-Trump alliance a disaster for the former governor. It makes him look like an apologist for the fringey "birther" movement, they cried. It damages his brand among moderate voters, said others (including me). Even Republicans worried that the association with Trump will turn off traditional establishment donors.

But, most voters - especially those highly sought after independent, swing voters - aren't monitoring their computer and TV screens like those of us inside-the-bubble. They have jobs and lives and like, real things to do.

Why the Trump incident really mattered for them is not for what they did see, but for what they didn't.

No attention was given to the fact that Romney was in Colorado talking energy policy - and whacking Obama on Solyndra. Or that he was campaigning in a swing state with double-digit unemployment. Or that the Conference Board reported consumer confidence suffered its biggest decline in eight months in May.

Every day that Trump, or other shiny objects like him (read: the reports of a SuperPAC going after Jeremiah Wright) distract the media, is another day that talk of the economy/jobs is on the back burner. And that is a small, but significant, victory for Team Obama.

At the end of the day, however, "winning the news cycle" only goes so far toward winning the race. Voters perceptions of the economy are going to drive this contest more than any one celebrity or ad or campaign flub.

Amy Walter, Political Director, ABC News