I don't know if the way Barack Obama repeatedly Terri Schiavos the GOP is conscious, or not, but I think it's brilliant. I think if you want an example of what I'm talking about, look at this Liz Cheney rant, where--as James Carville astutely points out--Cheney can not come out and say that she believes Barack Obama was born in America.
Obama does not so much drive right-wingers crazy, as he drives they extreme right wingers crazy. But here's the the thing--so many of the respectable one have fed the "Proud to Ignorant" line to their audience so long, that they can't say, "OK guys, it's time to be serious." Barack Obama takes the nuttiest wing of the GOP and then plasters the entire party with it. Maybe it's more correct to say they plaster themselves with it, I don't know. But if you look at Mike Castle's inability to control that crowd, there's a line from that incident, to the inability to talk honestly about Rush. The upshot is that people like Liz Cheney end up having to defend crazies.
It's like the old Martin Luther King Jr. trick. Do something really simple, like walk across the street, but do it a really dignified manner (a suit helps) and then watch your enemies go wild with opposition. Think Sonia Sotomayor, and then re-watch that Pat Buchanan rant. I'd maintain that Pat caught the worst of that one. And then think about Rev. Wright, and how Obama cut him off--and barely broke stride.
They need their crazies. Either that, or they are stupid enough to believe that the birthers are America.