There’s no doubt that “birtherism” has been a problem for Republicans. During the 2008 elections the Obama campaign was able to turn it deftly into both a distraction and a way to tarnish the image of the entire GOP based on the views of some conservative conspiracy theorists. While mainstream conservatives have dismissed the birther theory, MSNBC and others on the left have continued to focus on it because they believe it helps to discredit the right.
But recently, bitherism may have become more of a political detriment for the Democrats than a benefit. A Fox News poll from earlier this month showed that 24 percent of voters believe Obama was born outside of the U.S.–and contrary to popular belief, it isn’t only Republican voters who hold this view. While 37 percent of GOP voters question the president’s birthplace, 21 percent of independents and 12 percent of Democrats do as well.
This could have become a problem for Obama because polling also shows that he has almost no room for error in 2012. Only 31 percent of voters say they will definitely support Obama, while 23 percent say they might consider voting for him, according to the latest Gallup poll. And the president will need almost all of that 23 percent.
While most Americans were confident that Obama was born in Hawaii, the president’s refusal to release his birth certificate may finally have begun to frustrate them. The White House claimed that it didn’t make the birth certificate public in the past because it was a “distraction”—but it’s likely that many were wondering why he didn’t just release the thing and put the whole issue to rest. Now that he’s done so, perhaps we can get past the “distraction” and onto the legitimate issues.