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Undead Birtherism: The Zombie Conspiracy Can't Be Killed

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TPM's Nick Martin has been closely following Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett's recent adventures in birther-mongering. Bennett, the man in charge of running Arizona's elections, threatened last week to keep Obama off the state's ballots in November. Bennett's shenanigans followed the lead of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who earlier this year announced that members of a special posse had determined that a copy of Obama's birth certificate released last year by the White House was a fraud. (Arpaio saw Bennett's move this week and raised him an absurdity by dispatching a deputy from his "threats unit" to Hawaii as part of his probe.)

But birtherism is hardly an Arizona-only phenomenon. Signs of life from the birther hive have also recently been reported in Iowa, Colorado, Missouri, North Carolina, and Florida. (It is also worth noting, as TPM reported last week, that some of the most hardcore birthers are now so far gone that they're saying Obama was born in America after all, only now they think his Kenyan father was a cover for his "real" father, communist Frank Marshall Davis..)

Just this week, TheIowaRepublican.com and other outlets acquired a draft of the proposed platform Iowa Republicans will adopt at their state convention on June 16. The document contained the following line: "We believe candidates for President of the United States must show proof of being a 'natural born citizen' as required by Article II, Section I of the Constitution -- beginning with the 2012 election." In an interview with Radio Iowa on Monday, Don Racheter, chairman of the Iowa GOP's 2012 platform committee, said the section was "a shot" at the president.

"There are many Republicans who feel that Barack Obama is not a 'natural born citizen' because his father was not an American when he was born and, therefore, feel that according to the Constitution he's not qualified to be president, should not have been allowed to be elected by the Electoral College or even nominated by the Democratic Party in 2008, so this is an election year," Racheter said.

North Carolina, meanwhile, boasts not one but two Republican Congressional candidates who've dabbled in birtherism.

Jim Pendergraph, who on July 17 will face fellow Republican Robert Pittenger in a Republican primary runoff for the state's 9th District House seat, last month had Arpaio join for a campaign event, and said the following, when asked about Obama's birth certificate.

"I have reason to be suspicious," Pendergraph said, according to The Huffington Post. "But I don't know. I haven't seen the facts. I think there's a lot of smoke and generally when there's smoke there's got to be fire somewhere."

Earlier in April, Republican Richard Hudson, now facing a primary run off in North Carolina's 8th District, raised his own questions about Obama's citizenship at a Tea Party forum.

"There's no question President Obama is hiding something on his citizenship," Hudson said, according to Roll Call. "And if you elect me to Congress to represent you, I'll introduce legislation that requires any candidate for president or vice president to be certified by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as being a citizen."

Asked later about the comments by Roll Call, Hudson explained that "there's a lot of people that think that he's not a citizen. I don't know."

"In the future, let's just set a standard that if you're going to run, you have to have your citizenship certified in advance and then you won't have all this lingering, you know, questions and conspiracy theories and so forth," he said.

Aspiring lawmakers aren't the only ones playing this game. Three members of Congress have raised similar kinds of "concerns" over the last few months.

On May 12, at a fundraiser in Elbert County, Colorado, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) told a crowd that he didn't know if Barack Obama was born in the United States of America.

"I don't know that," he said. "But I do know this, that in his heart, he's not an American. He's just not an American."

Coffman later apologized, releasing a statement saying, "I misspoke and I apologize."

In April, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) told constituents at a town hall event that she had doubts about Obama's birth certificate.

"You know, I have a lot of doubts about all that. But I don't know, I haven't seen it," Hartzler said when asked about the issue, according to The Huffington Post. "I'm just at the same place you are on that. You read this, you read that. But I don't understand why he didn't show that right away. I mean, if someone asked for my birth certificate, I'd get my baby book and hand it out and say 'Here it is,' so I don't know."

After the event, The Sedalia Democrat asked Hartzler to clarify her comments, and the Congresswoman responded: "I have doubts that it is really his real birth certificate, and I think a lot of Americans do, but they claim it is, so we are just going to go with that."

She declined to say whether she believes the president is a U.S. citizen, calling the issue "irrelevant."

Back in February, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) offered perhaps the best example of how this undead issue survives even after it's been debunked time and again. During a meeting with constituents, Stearns offered the following thoughts (via Think Progress):

All I can tell you is that the general consensus is that he has produced a birth certificate. The question is, is it legitimate? That's where we stand now. I've seen a copy of it on television. But you know the Governor of Hawaii couldn't get what he felt was an original of the birth certificate. He tried to do it and gave up on it. So I think what Obama's showing is a facsimile, but I think that debate probably is not enough, shall we say, just to impeach him. We're going to have an election in five or six months so we can change the course of history by electing someone other than Obama. That's what elections are all about. If we started impeachment this time of year, very difficult in terms of time and strength.

In March, Stearns doubled down.

"I am, shall we say, looking at all the evidence," he told reporters in Washington, according to The Hill. "... some of these people seem to have legitimate concerns, so I don't think it is unreasonable just to see what they have to say."

Composite includes image via Shutterstock