May 25, 2012 -- If President Obama's team can't connect with voters on the big issues — the economy, Bain Capital, immigration — there's always the birthers.
Whether it's Donald Trump or the Arizona secretary of state, it's clear that there are people who will never be convinced the president was born in Hawaii. Thanks to recent movements in the Republican Party, Democrats may have an opportunity to tie these nonbelievers to Mitt Romney. And that's probably just fine by the White House.
The birther "controversy" reignited this week in Arizona. There, secretary of state Ken Bennett had asked Hawaii to verify Obama's birth certificate — the long-form document that the president released last year in response to demands by reality TV host Donald Trump. A key detail: Bennett is the co-chairman of Romney's campaign in Arizona.
Hawaii told Bennett that the birth certificate was real, and Bennett, apparently satisfied, declared the matter closed.
Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney, responded by pointing to Romney's previous quotes about Obama's citizenship (Romney thinks Obama was born in the United States). But when asked if it was inappropriate for Bennett to investigate the matter altogether, Saul didn't respond.
Some liberals have parodied Bennett's effort by asking him to investigate Romney's birth certificate from Michigan. Matt Roberts, a spokesman for Bennett, said the office is considering the request.
"Right now, we are determining whether or not that's necessary, and it's under consideration," Roberts said.
Democrats also revived Trump's flirtations with birthers on Thursday, as Romney announced a contest to share a meal with the real estate mogul for a $3 donation to his campaign. Trump famously crusaded against Obama's claims of citizenship last year, creating a media frenzy that led the president to put his long-form birth certificate online for everyone to see.
"Once again Mitt Romney is failing the moral leadership test," Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Melanie Roussell said in a statement. "Instead of rejecting Donald Trump's 'birther' conspiracy theories and divisive attacks, he's endorsing them by campaigning and fundraising with him. Romney has shown time and again that he's not ready to have his John McCain 2008 type moment by speaking out against these types of attacks against the President. This type of false and extremely divisive rhetoric has no place in the political discourse of our country and Mitt Romney should stand up against it instead of standing with Donald Trump to raise money for his campaign."
Newt Gingrich has tried again to distance himself from the birther movement. Asked Thursday evening on MSNBC why some Republicans continue to beat the birther drum, Gingrich smiled and said, "Beats me."
A rash of so-called birther bills have swept across the country in the past couple of years in nearly a dozen state legislatures, sponsored by Republicans who wanted proof that Obama is American-born before his name is allowed on the ballot.
A.G. Crowe, a Louisiana state senator who sponsored one of the bills last year, said Thursday that even though the president's birth certificate is on full display, he still doesn't know whether Obama is from here or Africa.
"I have no clue. I have no clue whatsoever. No clue whatsoever," Crowe said.
Told that Obama's birth certificate is available, Crowe said, "But you know what, what was the reason for taking so long to do all of that?"
"Until I see it myself, my mind will not be made up as to where he was born," he said. ABC News sent an email to Crowe with a link to Obama's birth certificate, but he didn't respond after that.
Leo Berman, a state representative in Texas who also filed a birther bill, said he doesn't believe Obama was born in the United States because of YouTube videos he said he's seen that show Obama and the first lady admitting that he wasn't born in the country.
"I don't think it's real," Berman said of Obama's birth certificate. "That's correct. And a number of people in the United States have the same opinion."
According to an ABC News/Washington Post survey from about a year ago, only 77 percent of people polled said they knew Obama was born in the United States. Of those who didn't, 3 percent said another country, and 19 percent said they had no opinion.