Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Brilliance Of Pence

People are impressed. Kurtis Lee of The Los Angeles Times writes

Donald Trump won't talk about his role as a so-called "birther," those who have questioned the citizenship of President Obama....

But his running mate wants to end the conversation. 

"I believe Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. I accept his birthplace," Indiana Gov. Mike Pence told reporters on Wednesday, declining to say if he thinks Trump should apologize. 

Earlier this week, Trump, with Pence at his side aboard the Republican nominee's plane, refused to answer questions about his past comments in which he consistently speculated that Obama was not born in the United States.

Similarly impressed by the apparent distinction between the two men, CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin argued "His running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, clarified on Wednesday that he, for one, believes that Obama was born in the United States.  Why doesn't Trump follow in the steps of Mike Pence and say, 'All right, you're right, he was born in the U.S.? Done, over with. Stop asking me.'"

Even The Huffington Post, which adds to any article about Donald Trump the disclaimer that he is a "serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misognyist, and birther." Under the heading "Mike Pence Believes Obama Was Born in America. Turmp Still Won't Say," we read

Breaking from his running mate Donald Trump on Wednesday,  Mike Pence stated correctly that President Obama was born in the United States. The GOP vice presidential nominee noted that while he has disagreements with Obama, they do not involve the President's birthplace.

So we get "his running mate wants to end the conversation;" Pence "clarified on Wednesday that he, for one, believes that Obama was born in the United States;" and "Mike Pence stated correctly that President Obama was born in the United States."

Each statement has two things in common. They are adoring, and are all wrong.

Mike Pence did not say Barack Obama was born in the United States. He said Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, which is the 50th state.  Reporters everywhere are assuming that because Hawaii entered the Union before Obama was born that Trump's running mate is acknowledging the current President was born in the United States.

But Pence, eyeing 2020 after a Trump defeat in two months, is doing no such thing. He is conceding only that Barack H. Obama was born in Hawaii- and to many Republican votes, that's not the same thing.  Following a disturbingly under-reported survey taken in August, 2009, Public Policy Polling observed

After we conducted polls over the last couple of weeks finding significant numbers of 'birthers' in North Carolina and Virginia, we decided to take the question national but also drum down more specifically on where exactly the people who think Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States do think he's from.

The answer is that 62% of Americans think Obama was born here, while 24% think he was not and 14% are unsure.

10% of the country thinks that he was born in Indonesia, 7% think he was born in Kenya, and 1% think he was born in the Philippines. 

That leaves 20%, which includes at least some people who correctly believe that Obama was born in Hawaii, but who don't consider Hawaii to be part of the United States. You read that right- 6% of poll respondents think that Hawaii is not part of the country and 4% are unsure.

It's hard to say what the rest of that 20% thinks. We did ask them if they thought Obama was born in France and while less than half a percent of respondents did, two thirds of that remaining 20% said they 'weren't sure' whether Obama was a Frenchman.

The figure of 6% is actually misleadingly low.  While 6% believed that Hawaii is not part of the USA, 14% were unsure where he was born. It can be surmised- without speculation- that a portion of that 14% had heard that he was born in Hawaii and didn't quite know what to make of it. It is highly likely that more than 6% of the respondents suspected both that Obama was born in Hawaii but not in this country but expressed uncertainty because they were confused or believed their opinion might not sound right to the pollster.

And that was respondents overall; surely the percentage of Republicans and GOP-leaning Independents was higher, a bloc Pence will be especially concerned about than Democrats after November, and is more interested in even now. Further, saying an individual was born in Hawaii does not provoke the same visceral reaction as saying he or she was born in America; the Hawaiian Islands are still visualized as a somewhat exotic location (as depicted in opening, below).

The media has been played. That Mike Pence is slicker than he appears.

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