Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) primary challenger, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), has clearly made the political calculation that the longtime senator and 2008 presidential candidate is vulnerable on his conservative flank.
But how vulnerable is that flank? McCain supporters are sending around a clip of Hayworth's appearance on CNN last night, in which the onetime congressman refuses to flat-out disavow the birther conspiracy movement and even suggests that, in the age of identify theft, questions about President Obama's citizenship are legitimate.
"All I said was this, and I'm responding to what constituents write me about. And they are looking respectively at every office, from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to city council," said Hayworth. "All I'm saying is, for every race cross the country, especially with identify theft in the news, it would be great that people can confirm who they say they are."
Host Campbell Brown seemed particularly bewildered by the identity theft line and chimed right in with several follows.
"Campbell it is a nice try," Hayworth replied. "Barack Obama is the President of the United States. He is our 44th president. I have no qualms about who he is or who he says he is. I know where he is in terms of policy."
This is trying to thread the needle between conspiracy wignut territory and legitimate Republican politics. And it's something that Hayworth will have to do better in the future. McCain famously corrected a birther theorist at a public town hall during the heat of the presidential race. Birther questions no longer follow him on the trail.
Hayworth has peddled this stuff before. The impetus for Brown's question was a Jan. 26 interview the congressman did with MSNBC's Hardball in which he proclaimed that Obama "should come forward with the information, that's all."
"Well gosh, we all had to bring our birth certificates to show we were who we said we were... Shouldn't we know exactly that anyone who wants to run for public office is a natural born citizen of the United States and are who they say they are?"
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