Christie sees Romney birther pandering as a mistake

Updated
 

On Friday, Mitt Romney took his campaign to new depths, pandering to racists with a birther joke in Michigan. This morning, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who’ll deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention, offered an interesting defense.

“I think if he had to do it over again, he wouldn’t make the joke,” Christie told Matt Lauer. “But you know what, when you’re on camera 12, 14 hours a day, and you’re at a big rallies and you’re just going off the cuff, there are going to be times you’re going to say stuff you wish you could take back. If you get a chance to talk to Governor Romney, I think he’d tell you that he wishes he could take that one back.”

Actually, if Romney had said that, this would be a very different story. Imagine if, after the event, he’d told reporters, “You know, my mouth got ahead of me on that one. I was trying to add a little levity, but I ended up saying something inappropriate, and it won’t happen again.” It’d still be noteworthy, but the whole controversy would have a very different feel.

But the Republican didn’t say anything close to that. Instead, Romney said his “joke” was appropriate because “the crowd loved it.”

In other words, Christie’s defense would be more compelling if it were in any way true. Romney has had several opportunities since Friday to “take that one back,” but he’s refused.

And why has he refused? Because Team Romney has made the calculation that a struggling economy is no longer enough, and that to win, the Republican will have to wage a racially charged culture war, exploiting divisions in the hopes that’ll boost Romney’s performance with white voters. It’s why he could have walked back his birther comments, but chose not to.

It’s also why I wish Christie were right, but he’s not.

Birthers, Chris Christie and Mitt Romney

Christie sees Romney birther pandering as a mistake

Updated