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Did birthers cost Mitt Romney the election?

I don’t think anyone will ever definitively answer that question, but I think it deserves to be asked.

Over the last two and a half years there’s been an effort to go at me in a way that is politically expedient in the short term for Republicans, but creates I think a problem for them when they want to actually run in a general election where most feel pretty confident the President was born where he says he was, in Hawaii.

Barack Obama
ABC News interview

The Republican Party I think owns the big issues of the day. We ought to be bold. We ought to be confident. If we spent as much time talking about solutions in the future as we did the president’s birth certificate, for heaven sake, we probably would have won the darn election.

Jon Huntsman, Republican Presidential Primary Candidate
CNN  Interview

Observation #1: Lots of people know what “birthers” are. Certainly not everyone is a “birther junkie” like folks here or at The Fogbow, or at the other fine birther-skewering web sites, but they know about them. Obama always gets a big laugh when he cracks a birther joke. Even after the election Rachel Maddow on MSNBC thought it worth repeating after the 2012 election, “he really was born in Hawaii” on her show last evening.

Observation #2: Donald Trump created a storm of negative publicity with his forays into birtherism, because he is in many quarters a roundly disliked figure, a poster child for why there should be a higher taxes on the rich. Trump  was a very visible supporter of Romney.

Observation #3: At least for some, birtherism has energized support for Obama. I can speak only for myself, but I gave Obama for America a big multiple of the contribution I gave in 2008 because I didn’t want the birthers to have the satisfaction of a win.

Observation #4: GOP leaders such as Karl Rove and Senator Lindsey Graham have spoken against birthers, saying that they hurt the Party. Rove once called the birth certificate “Barack Obama’s trap.” Graham said: “Here’s what the Republican Party has to do… We have to say that’s crazy. So I’m here to tell you that those who think the President was born somewhere other than Hawaii are crazy…. Let’s knock this crap off and talk about the real issues.”

Observation #5: Birthers have become a byword for nut case conspiracy theorist among the population, including becoming (unfairly or not) a synonym for racist. Every time a birther supports Romney, an independent voter saw a nut job associated with the Republican side.

The birthers, the rape denialists, the Donald, the climate change cranks, the homophobes and all the rest tarnished the Republican brand. Birthers and the rest may well have cost Romney the presidency in 2012.

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29 Responses to Did birthers cost Mitt Romney the election?

  1. avatar
    Scientist November 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Observation #6- The presence of a loud and vocal contingent of birthers and other assorted cranks within the Republican primary electorate forced Romney to take hard-line positions on a range of issues, like immigration, help for people hit by natural disasters, abortion and a whole host of others in order to secure the nomination. He made a valiant attempt to Etch-A-Sketch those away in the 1st debate, but it had only a temporary effect.

    While those positions are not birtherist, per se, there is no doubt that there is a high correlation. I know Apuzzo made remarks to me about how I must be a “scamming climate scientist” (I am a biochemist/immunologist). So, I’m curious whether anyone has ever come acrosss a birther who accepts climate change or supports same-sex marriage or is pro-choice. I’m betting not.

  2. avatar
    misha marinsky November 8, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    Scientist: I am a biochemist/immunologist

    Whatever happens is the lord’s will. Just ask Akin or Mourdock, or Bachmann.

  3. avatar
    misha marinsky November 8, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    “The birthers, the rape denialists, climate change cranks, homophobes and all the rest tarnish the Republican brand.”

    Good. Serves them right for not doing like Buckley – get rid of the kooks.

    “Birthers and the rest may well have cost Romney the presidency in 2012.”

    That’s correct. His magic pants did not help him.

  4. avatar
    RuhRoh November 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    Interestingly, the Tea Partiers may have contributed to Obama’s win by staying home. Surprising numbers of them either didn’t vote or voted for third party candidates. As we’ve seen, Tea Partiers have a fairly significant overlap with birthers and other conspiracy theorists and these people did not get very excited about Romney.

    CBS is reporting that one reason the Romney campaign’s polling was so divorced from reality is that Tea Partiers self-identify as Independents, while the Romney campaign assumed them to be Republicans. Romney thought they’d knuckle under and vote for him even though they weren’t enthused about him, but they didn’t.

  5. avatar
    Andrew Vrba, PmG November 8, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    Well I think some of the birthers finally are getting the message, and perhaps understanding that they are to blame. The guy who runs http://birthers.org/ is hanging it up for good.

  6. avatar
    Thomas Brown November 8, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    ” I gave Obama for America a big multiple of the contribution I gave in 2008 because I didn’t want the birthers to have the satisfaction of a win.”

    Us too. I donated every week, whetting my appetite for Birther Tears.

  7. avatar
    JPotter November 8, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    Andrew Vrba, PmG: Well I think some of the birthers finally are getting the message, and perhaps understanding that they are to blame. The guy who runs http://birthers.org/ is hanging it up for good.

    Judging by his ‘farewell’, I’d say he definitely hasn’t gotten any messages! LOL!

    He even says he’s going Galt. C’est la vie!

  8. avatar
    donna November 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    doc:

    as a student of math, you might be interested in obama’s campaign machine – it is fascinating to me

    How Obama’s data crunchers helped him win

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/07/tech/web/obama-campaign-tech-team/index.html

    also TIME devote some space on it too

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine

    today, republican strategist hogan said the romney “machine” was antiquated in comparison and only catching up to obama’s from 4 years ago

    regarding the birthers being a negative, paul ryan is being referred to as an “albatross”

    Paul Ryan Was Not the GOP’s Savior. He May Even Have Been its Albatross.

    http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/109881/trust-me-conservatives-more-paul-ryan-was-not-the-answer

  9. avatar
    Sudoku November 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    I do believe birthers ended up aiding Obama in the election. I am socially very liberal, but fiscally moderate. For me, any sniff of a curiosity in Mittens’ direction I may have been willing to entertain was completely eroded by his failure to emphatically reject the birfoons.

  10. avatar
    john November 8, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    Observation #7 – I would really like to know the thoughts from certain individuals such as Senator Tom Coburn, AZ SOS Ken Bennett and the Georgia SOS. Do these individuals really have a big regret now that Obama has been re-elected.

    Tom Coburn said he had no interest in Sheriff Joe’s investigation or a Congressional investigation into Obama’s BC. Coburn probably throught Obama would be voted out. I would love to know what Coburn thinks now.

    Ken Bennett and GA SOS both an opportunity to destroy Obama once and for all but chose not to take it. I am sure they are feeling a big big regret.

    Bennett probably has the biggest regret. He had opportunity to remove Obama from AZ ballot but got scared. Had Bennett removed Obama from the ballot, Obama would been instantly destroyed because birthers would finally have gotten their headline they had all hoped – “Obama booted for state ballot due to ineligibility.” It would not have mattered if Obama could have gotten it reversed. The damage would have been done.

    I am sure many others have big silent regret for not taking up the birther issue.

  11. avatar
    Slartibartfast November 9, 2012 at 5:29 am #

    While I agree that birthers helped the president, I don’t think they ultimately moved the needle all that much—maybe a tenth of a percent or two. Most people just didn’t care one way or the other. If we go by Sam Wang’s numbers at the Princeton Electoral Consortium, they would have needed to be about a 2.5% boost for President Obama to have cost Romney the election. I just don’t see it.

  12. avatar
    Paper November 9, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    The birthers helped the President’s coattails.

  13. avatar
    Andrew Vrba, PmG November 9, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    I think that the birthers helped make re-electing Obama possible.
    People saw what the birthers were, then they saw that Romney was making birther remarks.
    Those people said to themselves “Oh, I am not voting a crazy person into office. There is no telling WHAT he will do!”

  14. avatar
    The Magic M November 9, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    john: Do these individuals really have a big regret now that Obama has been re-elected.

    No, because contrary to your self-delusion, they are not “secretly on your side” and they definitely didn’t go like many birthers “we can quit birfin’ now, Romney will win anyway”.

    john: The damage would have been done.

    And that’s pretty much all this swiftboating was ever meant for. Good to see you had honest SOS’ and honest judges who refused to be abused as the tools of a racist smear campaign.

  15. avatar
    JPotter November 9, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    john: Senator Tom Coburn

    … of the great state of Okieland, who hails from the next town over, is a friend of Obama. D’oh!

    Keep fishing for heroes.

    john: Ken Bennett and GA SOS both an opportunity to destroy Obama once and for all but chose not to take it.

    You’re monologuing, bub. Life is not a comic book, or a Bond movie.

  16. avatar
    Scientist November 9, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    john: Had Bennett removed Obama from the ballot, Obama would been instantly destroyed because birthers would finally have gotten their headline they had all hoped – “Obama booted for state ballot due to ineligibility.” It would not have mattered if Obama could have gotten it reversed. The damage would have been done.

    Do you have any evidence that any Obama voters would have changed their vote because of what the Secretary of State of Arizona, who was Romney’s state chair, might have done? Have you ever spoken with any Obama voter? Do you even know any?

  17. avatar
    donna November 9, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    John:

    instead of coburn (who is indeed a friend of obama’s) why not browbeat mccain & kyl from arpaio’s state or some of the representatives there? fyi, they were approached and not interested – paul ryan wasn’t interested and, from the beginning, had prepared written responses for the birthers which he sent along with copies of obama’s BC – karl rove & lindsay grahann have called birthers “crazy” – in fact, rove said to fox’s greta that one of his deputies helped get obama elected to law review – and don’t forget that EVERY house rep declared that obama was born in hawaii – re ken bennett, this was his response in 2011 before he questioned his eligibility and it ended with:

    “though, that no process might be enough ‘in the minds of some people’.”

    http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/arizona/politics/article_7d8bf3dc-2b41-11e0-bfbe-001cc4c03286.html

  18. avatar
    John Reilly November 9, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    Excluding Obama from any ballot, even temporarily, would have been perceived as Gov. Romney trying to steal an election. Dr. Taitz would have been interviewed everywhere, including places like Meet the Press. The Obama voters who stayed home this time (and his vote total is down from 2008) would have been energized to come out. Just like Akin and Moyrdock energized the other side in a race they could not lose, having Dr. Taitz screech on national TV would have had unintended effects.

    But John, keep dreaming. You are what is wrong in my Republican Party. Go away.

  19. avatar
    gorefan November 9, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    john: Ken Bennett and GA SOS both an opportunity to destroy Obama

    Don’t forget the SoS of Kansas – he had made birther lite comments in the past but after Hawaii verified the BC he put President Obama’s name on the ballot.

  20. avatar
    misha marinsky November 9, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    John Reilly: But John, keep dreaming. You are what is wrong in my Republican Party. Go away.

    The Republican Party died with Nelson Rockefeller, and Jacob Javits. As a New Yorker, I’m sorry too.

    Colin Powell and Ron Reagan Jr. are fed up, and left.

  21. avatar
    John Reilly November 10, 2012 at 2:36 am #

    Misha, we had Richard Lugar here in Indiana until the primary.

  22. avatar
    misha marinsky November 10, 2012 at 2:53 am #

    John Reilly: Misha, we had Richard Lugar here in Indiana until the primary.

    Thank you. I did forget. Mourdock, like O’Donnell, dirtied the office. She destroyed Mike Castle’s years of public service.

    Both thoroughly decent people. Letterman graduated from Ball State – a great school.

  23. avatar
    Monkey Boy November 10, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    misha marinsky: The Republican Party died with Nelson Rockefeller, and Jacob Javits.As a New Yorker, I’m sorry too.

    Sure enough, Javits and John Lindsay are the only two Republicans I’ve ever voted for directly. Though, I indirectly aided Repugs in 1968 when I refused to vote for Humphrey, and in 1980 I was annoyed at President Carter for bringing the Shah here, so I protested voted for John Anderson. I have rued those two impulsive actions profoundly.

  24. avatar
    Yoda November 10, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    Birthers are rape deniers, etc, were a nightmare for Romney and yes hurt his chances to be elected. It also put him in a quandary. Clearly the correct thing to do was to denounce them and separate himself from their comments. However it may not have been the “right” thing to do. If he had done the correct thing he risked alienating the right wing base that believes this crap.

  25. avatar
    donna November 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    Did they really think only old white men would hear the dogwhistles?

    from 2008-2012, the Republican message against Obama has been nothing but one long racist tirade.

    Muslim. Kenyan. Foreign. Hussein. Doesn’t share our values. Not Christian. Wants to cut the work requirement in welfare. Obamaphones. “Holder’s People.” Black Panthers. “Moochelle Chewbacca Obama.” “The White Hut.” “Entitlement society.” “Makers versus takers.” Recovery, not dependency. Parasites.

    it ends with: did the Republicans really believe that women, youth, minorities, and educated folk wouldn’t recognize a visceral threat to our existence when we saw it? That we wouldn’t turn out to vote? That we wouldn’t do everything in our power to prevent the measures of our lives from being determined by these people?

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2012/11/did-they-really-think-only-old-white.html

  26. avatar
    misha marinsky November 11, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    donna: Muslim. Kenyan. Foreign. Hussein. Doesn’t share our values. Not Christian. Wants to cut the work requirement in welfare. Obamaphones. “Holder’s People.” Black Panthers. “Moochelle Chewbacca Obama.” “The White Hut.” “Entitlement society.” “Makers versus takers.” Recovery, not dependency. Parasites.

    Affirmative action president. “I wish this president would learn to be an American.” ‘He was influenced by Alinsky.’ Consumed with anti-colonial rage. His mother was a communist.

  27. avatar
    Benito November 17, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    GOP – You Reaped what you sowed!

    We had a decisive re-election of our President due, in part, to the majority of Latin America US Citizens voted for him and not the GOP.

    I think back to the May Day March or what some called a day without an immigrant and all the hate and disparaging name calling from the GOP Tea Baggers and the far conservative religious right (Did we see the GOP leadership try to stop it?, no, they thought this meant votes for them). I saw children, parents and grand parents together in solidarity, my people the working class, they may not be sophisticated but they got the message heard. In the demonstrations I saw our beloved “Stars and Stripes” flag, the flag from Mexico and some flags from other countries (not many complaints about these flags). I saw the flags being a sign of solidarity as when I see German flags flying during October Fest and Ireland Flags flying during St. Patrick’s Day. From publish reports the demonstrations included both US citizens and those without legal residency. This brought me a smile because I always enjoy seeing brothers helping brothers.

    That day and now our election day reminded me of a parable from the good book where a Levite and Priest come upon a man who fell among thieves and they both individually passed by and didn’t stop to help him. Finally a man of another race came by, he got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy and got down with the injured man, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his brother.

    You see, the Levite and the Priest were afraid, they asked themselves, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”

    But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

    That’s the question before us back on May Day and it continued on to election day. The question is not, “If I stop to help the un -documented workers in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help the un-documented workers, what will happen to him or her?” That’s was always the question.

    God bless all my brothers and sister that stood side by side with our brothers and sisters in need on May Day, on Election Day and on all days to come!

  28. avatar
    misha marinsky November 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    Benito: GOP – You Reaped what you sowed!…all the hate and disparaging name calling from the GOP Tea Baggers and the far conservative religious right (Did we see the GOP leadership try to stop it?, no, they thought this meant votes for them).

    John Boehner Still Pandering to the Birthers: It’s Not My Job to Tell People What to Think

    On this week’s Meet the Press, after David Gregory played a portion of Frank Luntz’s focus group following President Obama’s State of the Union Address, John Boehner refused to take any responsibility for Republicans continuing to pander to the birther crowd.

    Video: http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/john-boehner-still-pandering-birthers-its-

  29. avatar
    misha marinsky November 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Benito: God bless all my brothers and sister that stood side by side with our brothers and sisters in need on May Day, on Election Day and on all days to come!

    I am Jewish. America is for everyone. I actively supported Obama both times. Obama got ~70%-74% of the Jewish vote. And Obama got 100% of dog lovers’ votes.

    Thrifty: Gail Collins mentioned Seamus today again. That’s now 70x.