Birtherism isn’t dead

at 04:03 PM ET, 05/18/2012

Discussion of President Obama’s place of birth died down significantly when he released his long-form birth certicate. But birtherism still lives, even if it no longer gets as much attention.

Nationally, conservative bloggers have seized an opportunity to raise the issue. In some places disbelief in Obama’s America origins is still strong, and politicians are pandering to that sentiment.

After Obama’s April 2011 release, only 10 percent of Americans overall thought Obama was likely born outside the country. Among Republicans, it was only a little higher, at 14 percent. Republican candidates stopped talking about Obama’s birth certificate after its release (except Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in what appeared to be a tone-deaf attempt to jab the president.)
Televison News Correspondents hold copies of US President Barack Obama's long-form birth certificate on April 27, 2011. (JIM WATSON - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

But on Thursday, the Drudge Report prominently featured a blog post about a 1991 literary agency pamphlet advertising Obama as "born in Kenya.” On Friday afternoon, the story is still close to the top of the page, though a former staffer at the agency has explained that it was her “simple mistake.”

Numerous conservatives, while saying they believe Obama was born in the country, seized on the document as a sign that the president himself may have lied about his origins for personal gain. (It goes along with the flap on the right over Obama’s conflation of multiple girlfriends in his memoir. )

That same day, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R) told a radio station that the president might not get on the ballot in the state because of questions about his birth certificate.

“I believe that the president was born in Hawaii – or at least, I hope he was,” Bennett said, adding that he needed confirmation from that state. (It’s not clear he has the authority to keep Obama off the ballot.)

Bennett is hoping to succeed Gov. Jan Brewer (R) in 2014. He said he was following the lead of popular Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who also has questioned Obama’s birth certificate.

Clearly, Bennett thinks raising this issue will help him in the state’s Republican primary.

Several House members have also been caught recently flirting with birtherism among supporters, only to back off when their remarks found a wider audience.

While the issue is no longer regularly polled, the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found in March that more than a third of Republican primary voters in Ohio, Georgia and Tennessee don’t think Obama was born in the United States.

Birtherism hasn’t disappeared — it’s evolved.

 
Read what others are saying