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Romney blows birther dog-whistle with 'joke'

Did he really just say that?

Mitt Romney fueled the controversial birther movement today at a campaign event in Michigan after he described how he loved "being home in this place where [Romney's wife] Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born."

"No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate," Romney said. "They know that this was the place [points to ground] that we were born and raised."

The Republican crowd cheered and applauded.  The Obama campaign quickly pounced.

“Throughout this campaign, Governor Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them," said spokesman Ben LaBolt.  

He continued: "It’s one thing to give the stage in Tampa to Donald Trump, Sheriff Arpaio, and Kris Kobach. But Governor Romney’s decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America.”

While Romney has said that he believes that Obama was born in the U.S., and is therefore Constitutionally qualified to be president, he opens himself up to accusations that this "joke" was a dog-whistle to racists.  

Birtherism is about race, after all.  It's clearly part of an effort to paint Obama as un-American, or an "other."  No white president has ever had their nationality questioned. Obama's is questioned simply because he is black.  

And by saying what he said today, Romney's managed to tap into the most divisive, most hateful "we want to delegitimize this black president" fringe of his party. 

As Gawker's Max Read writes, Romney just might as well have said, "Everyone knows I'm a real American, due to my white skin! No one would ever ask to see my papers, because I am white!"