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GOP to Perry: Cut out the birther talk

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A funny thing happened to Rick Perry on his way to Birther Revivalism--GOP bigwigs tackled him and tossed him in a ditch. RICHARD SHIRO AP Republican Presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the ISO Poly Films plant, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011, in Gray Court, S.C.)

It was a move that Perry clearly didn’t anticipate as he chatted amiably and strategically about what fun it was to poke at President Obama over a long-settled issue.

“It’s a good issue to keep alive. You know, Donald [Trump] has got to have some fun,” Perry said in a New York Times interview. “It’s fun to poke him a little bit and say ‘Hey, let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.’”

Turns out, it was no fun at all.

Which explains why hours after his birthers-gotta-have-fun comments, Perry had nary a word to say about the president’s birth certificate in a Tuesday press conference in Columbia, S.C..

He didn’t namedrop Trump.

He didn’t say it was a fun issue to keep alive.

He deflected several questions about the issue, saying it was a “one of the biggest distractions that there is going.”

With that, Perry proclaimed the death of birtherism, after trying mightily to resuscitate it.

But it was a position he had to be pulled to by the GOP establishment who piled on Perry, snuffing out his attempts to revive birtherism.

Karl Rove, no friend of Perry but often the voice of the GOP establishment, had simple advice for Perry--don’t hang out with nuts.

“You associate yourself with a nutty view like that, and you damage yourself. And I know he went and he’s trying to cultivate -- as all of them are -- Donald Trump, in order to get his endorsement, but this is not the way to go about doing it, because it starts to marginalize you in the minds of some of the people whom you need in order to get the election,” he said. “There’s a simple answer. Yes, he was born in the United States, yes, he is eligible to serve, and don’t associate yourself with sort of this nutty fringe group.

And Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, widely considered in both parties to be among the finest political strategists, also had words for Perry. He offered the Republican field a variation on his “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” mantra.

“Look, if this election is about Barack Obama’s policies and the results of those policies, Barack Obama’s gonna lose.. Any other issue that gets injected into the campaign is not good for the Republicans,” Barbour said to reporters. “Republicans should want this election to be what American presidential elections have always been — a referendum on the incumbent’s record. Barack Obama cannot win a second term running on his record. Zero chance. So anybody that talks about anything else is off-subject.”

Conservative gadfly Michelle Malkin took to Twitter with a similar sentiment: “Birthers, flip-floppers, Beltway moldy-oldies, Kabuki reformers. Don’t have stomach to look at GOP2012 field today.”

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush also weighed in and didn’t equivocate.

“Republican candidates should categorically reject the notion that President Obama was not born in the United States,” he e-mailed The Post’s Jennifer Rubin. “It is a complete distraction from the failed economic policies of the President.”

Perry, clearly misjudged where his party is on the issue of birthers, but now he seems to have arrived at a final answer.

But it was probably no fun getting there.

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