After Mitt Romney's son made a "birther" joke on the campaign trail, he quickly apologized and downplayed the taboo remarks. President Obama's re-election team, however, is keeping the moment alive and hoping to earn a few bucks off of it.
At an event in New Hampshire today, Romney's adult son Matt Romney responded to a question regarding the potential release of his father's tax returns with a joke alluding to doubts about Mr. Obama's place of birth: "I heard someone suggest the other day that as soon as Obama releases his grades and birth certificate and sort of a long list of things, then maybe he'd do it," he said.
Romney's other son, Tagg Romney, jumped in to say, "That was not my dad saying that."
Matt Romney subsequently released his first-ever tweet in response to reports about his comments: "I repeated a dumb joke. My bad. RT @emilyrs Romney's son Matt made an Obama birth certificate joke on the trail in NH."
The Romney campaign in all likelihood would like to avoid wading into conspiracy theories that could chip away at the perception that Romney is a serious candidate, but Mr. Obama's re-election campaign is already exploiting the gaffe.
In an email to supporters today about the joke, Obama for America campaign manager Jim Messina wrote, "This is how the Romney campaign thinks it's going to win the Republican primary: by pandering to the dead-ender fringe of extremists who still question where the president was born."
While asking for a donation, Messina said, "we can drive up the cost of this kind of politics... when they do this, you've got to do something about it."
The email was sent under the subject line, "Donald Trump or Mitt Romney?" in reference to Trump's persistent questions about Mr. Obama's origins, which ultimately prompted the president to release his long-form birth certificate from Hawaii.
The Obama team and the Democratic party have kept their aim on Romney throughout the primary season, even as other Republican presidential candidates surged in the polls. Now that he is leading in both Iowa and New Hampshire polls, it appears more likely than ever that Romney could indeed be Mr. Obama's 2012 opponent -- and Democrats are, of course, still hammering him.
The Democratic National Committee on Thursday released a web video slamming Romney for refusing to release his tax returns.
"What is Mitt Romney hiding?" the video asks.