(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Gray Court, S.C, -- Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry calls lingering questions about President Obama's birth a "distractive issue," but it is one that he is choosing to keep alive -- threatening to steal attention from his unveiling of a sweeping tax-overhaul plan Tuesday.
The Texas governor hopes to rebound after his abrupt fall from the lead in the polls in the 2012 race, and is counting on a victory in South Carolina's first-in-the-South primary to set up a two-man showdown with Mitt Romney. Polling has shown that "birther" sentiment is stronger in the South.
In an interview, Perry called the birther movement "a good issue to keep alive."
"You know, Donald [Trump] has got to have some fun. It’s fun to poke him a little bit and say, 'Hey, let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.' I don’t have a clue about where the president -- and what this birth certificate says. But it’s also a great distraction. I’m not distracted by it," Perry told CNBC.
The TV interview was conducted one day after another Perry interview, in Parade magazine, revived the birther issue. Obama released the long form of his Hawaii birth certificate in April in an attempt to end questions about the legitimacy of his presidency.
Here's the exchange from Parade's interview with Perry:
Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.
That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—
Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.
But you’ve seen his.
I don’t know. Have I?
You don’t believe what’s been released?
I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.
That came up.
And he said?
He doesn’t think it’s real.
And you said?
I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the president of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.