Perry Takes His Campaign in a New Direction: Birtherism

After what must have been a riveting presentation by Donald Trump, Rick Perry hints he's no longer sure President Obama was born in the United States.

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After what must have been a riveting presentation by Donald Trump, Rick Perry hints he's no longer sure President Obama was born in the United States. Perry's campaign is struggling after he showed off his inability to speak in complete sentences in the Republican primary debates, and now he's trying to tap the energy the fueled the other candidates who briefly challenged Mitt Romney for frontrunner status. Each contender -- Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain -- brought something unique to the table. Perry is already trying to steal Cain's signature issue, a more regressive tax code. Now he's cribbing from Trump, leaving open the possibility that Obama isn't a citizen and therefore is an illegitimate president.

From Perry's interview with Parade magazine:
Parade: Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
Perry: I have no reason to think otherwise.
Parade: That's not a definitive, "Yes, I believe he"—
Perry: Well, I don't have a definitive answer, because he's never seen my birth certificate.
Parade: But you've seen his.
Perry: I don't know. Have I?
Parade: You don't believe what's been released?
Perry: I don't know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.
Parade: And?
Perry: That came up.
Parade: And he said?
Perry: He doesn't think it's real.
Parade: And you said?
Perry: 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.
Parade: Do you think Donald Trump going to support your candidacy?
Perry: You'll have to ask him, but I’d certainly like to have the Donald’s support. He is a job-creating machine, and that’s what I’m all about. 
It's true: by putting her on The Apprentice, Trump did help Joan Rivers get more gigs. As The Hill's Christian Heinze notes, Karl Rove says Perry shouldn't be playing with "this nutty fringe group." But you could argue that Perry's just responding to his supporters -- an August poll showed he led among people who think Obama's not a citizen.
After slipping in the polls, Perry is trying to move his campaign in a new direction. Politico's Maggie Haberman reports that Perry's campaign has finally hired a national pollster, which "had been a major missing piece for Perry." The pollster, Tony Fabrizio, worked for Bob Dole's losing presidential run in 1996. He's also worked for Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out of the presidential race in August, and Florida's Rick Scott, who was the country's least popular governor until he lost that title to Hawaii's Neil Abercrombie this month. Perry's also hired Nelson Warfield, another guy Time's Mark Halperin calls "reinforcements." Warfield worked for Dole in 1996, too, when he critized the flat tax Perry is now pushing.
Now that Perry's stealing from Trump and Cain, what can he swipe from Bachmann? The Minnesota congresswoman's support is rooted in evangelicals. Here's a way for Perry -- who unofficially launched his campaign with a national prayer meeting -- to win them over and get people to forget about his debate problems at the same time. On Sunday, NBC News' First Read reports, Perry explained his poor debate performances: "In God's eyes, we're not disqualified by our imperfections because we are weak and he is strong. That's the good news. We are not called to be perfect. If any of you have watched my debate performances over the last three or four times, you know I am far from perfect."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.