On the trail just now in Michigan, Mitt Romney made a birther funny:
“I love being home, in this place where Ann and I were raised. Where both of us were born...No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”
The Obama campaign quickly put out a response:
“Throughout this campaign, Governor Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them. It’s one thing to give the stage in Tampa to Donald Trump, Sheriff Arpaio, and Kris Kobach. But Governor Romney’s decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America.”
The Romney campaign is trying to shut down the story right now, releasing statements claiming that Romney has always maintained Obama was born in the United States and that Romney was merely making a paean to his birthplace.
Of course Romney fully believes Obama was born in the United States. But in a way, that’s the point — he’s still willing to dabble in birther humor, either to rev up his base by proving that he’s willing to take it to Obama or whatever, or for a cheap laugh, or for some combination of the two.
Maybe this will get chalked up to Romney’s awkwardness and get dismissed, but it looks to me like a major mistake. Coming just after days spent debating Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” remark, this is again a reminder of the extreme voices in the GOP, which Romney has at times been slow to denounce. And it seems less than presidential, to put it mildly. The fact that uncomfortably large numbers still believe Obama has perpetrated an elaborate plot to fake his birthplace and ascend to the presidency illegitimately is a pretty damn big deal.
It will be easy for the Obama campaign to seize on this to raise questions about Romney’s judgment, temperament, and character. Wow.
UPDATE: More on birther jokes and the good-Obama-bad-Obama conundrum.