Opinion Brief

Could Mitt Romney's 'birther' denial hurt his campaign?

The former Massachusetts governor dismisses the conspiracy theory that Obama is not a U.S. citizen. Will that hobble him with the base — or help him win the center?

Mitt Romney placed himself squarely in the "not birther" column this week, telling CNBC's Larry Kudlow that President Obama has passed "the citizenship test," and "was born in the United States." Meanwhile, a national CNN poll showed Donald Trump, who's used birtherism to drum up Republican support, atop the GOP's 2012 field. Trump has scoffed at the idea that birtherism is a "losing issue," saying Sunday, "55 percent of the Republicans believe in this issue, and 70 percent think that there's at least a good chance he wasn't born in this country." Has Romney made a strategic error?

Romney just shot himself in the foot: After discounting the birthers, "Romney is doomed. Dead man walking. A political zombie," says Jay Bookman in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Trump isn't the only GOP candidate thriving because of such "eccentricities," or even the only one "banging on the birther drum." Sadly for Romney, in today's GOP, "sane ain't selling." "Politically speaking, Mitt Romney is a dead man walking"

Denouncing birtherism is good for Romney — and the GOP: Some Republicans will support "peddlers of paranoia," says Peter Wehner in The Wall Street Journal, but most voters are rightly "uneasy about political institutions that give a home to cranks." Trump has forced this "fringe conspiracy theory" into the spotlight, and "responsible Republicans" like Romney need to "speak out immediately" against Trump's gambit if their party is to have any shot at beating Obama."The GOP and the birther trap"

Romney's "anti-Trump" gambit could cut either way: Sure, Trump is getting all the media attention, says Erik Hayden in National Journal. But Romney's "savvy strategy" of "quietly positioning himself as the adult figure among a field of oddball candidates and also-rans" could be his ticket to the White House. Time will tell."Rating Mitt Romney's quest to be the anti-Trump"

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