Jen Rubin took the temperature of some GOP governors regarding Rick Perry’s inexplicable raising of the birther issue and their not so subtle message to the governor: Back off.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a frequent mention for the VP list and the governor of a critical swing state, told Right Turn exclusively through his spokesman: “The governor has always been clear on this matter: The president was born in the United States and any suggestion that he wasn’t is an unnecessary distraction from the important issues facing our nation.”
McDonnell is a careful politician who has pledged not to endorse before the end of the Virginia legislative session. But the message is unmistakable: Knock it off. You’re hurting the party.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who also has yet to endorse and hosts the first contest in the nomination process, seems to share that view. His spokesman told Right Turn: “The governor believes this is an issue that was put to rest long ago. I do not believe the average Iowa caucus-goer shares these views.” In other words: This is not the way to dig out of single digits in a state in which you need to do very well.
Huffington Post’s Sam Stein is reporting that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has also spoken out against the birtherism nuttery.
A number of GOP staffers and national operatives on Capitol Hill (none of whom have endorsed or are associated with any other campaign), in state houses and elsewhere have expressed to me how distressed they are at this turn of events. One Republican on the Hill in a prominent member’s office termed the reaction to Perry’s dive into nuttery “a disheartening disappointment, a total disgrace.” The reaction ranged from amazement to disgust. It is not a sentiment followed by comments like “And so we need to nominate Herman Cain,” or “and so Mitt Romney is the default.” What is telling is that this a simple and near uniform expression of dismay.
Perry has played with fire and gotten burned. The question is whether he can convince voters and donors that he’s not, quite frankly, a buffoon.
Buffoon might be a little harsh, Jennifer. How about clown? I actually prefer galoot — has a nice ring to it.
Perry’s supporters are spinning the governor’s words wildly, trying desperately to get us to believe that Perry didn’t say what he said and mean what he meant. But that dog ain’t huntin’, boys. Whether he is trying to get Donald Trump’s endorsement, or simply pandering to the 25% of the GOP base that despite all evidence to the contrary, still believes Obama is not a natural born citizen or wasn’t born here, Perry did himself — and the party — no favors with his playing footsie with the birthers.