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Posted at 09:08 AM ET, 04/18/2011

West Wing briefing: Can the ‘birthers’ actually help Obama?


President Barack Obama smiles as he delivers remarks at TechBoston Academy in Boston, March 8, 2011. (JIM YOUNG - REUTERS)
Can the so-called birthers help President Obama win reelection?

In an interview with ABC News last week, Obama, who has generally avoided talking about the 2012 election, suggested that continued questions about his background from Republicans such as Donald Trump would hurt Republicans in next year’s elections. Some conservatives have repeatedly questioned the president’s birth in Hawaii, despite ample evidence showing he was born there.

It “creates, I think a problem for them when they want to actually run in a general election where most people feel pretty confident the president was born where he says he was, in Hawaii,” Obama said. “He doesn’t have horns. We may disagree with him on some issues and we may wish that you know, the unemployment rate was coming down faster and we want to know his plan on gas prices.

“But we’re not really worrying about conspiracy theories or or birth certificates,” Obama said, “and so I think it presents a problem for them.”

Obama seems eager to highlight the more extreme views of Republicans. In recent speeches, he has several times made jokes that referenced the birthers.

“I was talking to a group earlier and I said, you know, I grew up here in Chicago. I wasn’t born here. Just want to be clear. I was born in Hawaii,” he said, as the audience laughed at a fundraising event in Chicago last week. “But I became a man here in Chicago.”

If their recent comments are any indication, some leading Republicans share Obama’s view. Earlier this year, top GOP strategist Karl Rove referred to the birthers as a “trap that the White House has laid for us.”

(There is no evidence the continued existence of the birthers is some Democratic conspiracy.)

“I think the citizenship test has been passed. I believe the president was born in the United States,” GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in an interview on CNBC last week. “The man needs to be taken out of office, but his citizenship isn’t the reason why.”

Obama today

The president will conduct interviews at the White House with local television reporters from Denver, Raleigh, Dallas and Indianapolis. These interviews, which the White House says are to explain Obama’s new deficit reduction plan, are also about his reelection, as the Post’s Peter Wallsten wrote in a recent piece.

Obama won in Colorado (54 percent of the vote) Indiana (50 percent) and North Carolina (50 percent) in 2008, but he is not assured of victory in any of these states next year. And Democratic officials say Obama could win Texas in 2012 in part because of the growth in the Hispanic population. The president won 44 percent of the vote in Texas in 2008, but did not wage a serious campaign there.

By Perry Bacon Jr.  |  09:08 AM ET, 04/18/2011

 
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