GOP Boss Says Birther Claims a Distraction

Reince Priebus says he is not a birther.

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Newly-installed Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has a message for so-called "birthers": Shut up!

Priebus, who's starting to score some fundraising and organizational victories inside GOP HQ, having taken over for controversial former Chairman Michael Steele, says the debate over President Obama's birthplace and whether he can be president is a huge distraction away from the party's effort to fight Democratic spending and tax plans.

In an interview, we asked if he is a birther. "I'm not," says Priebus. "I believe that the president was born in Hawaii." [Read 10 things you didn't know about Reince Priebus.]

"I think that the entire issue gets me off track to what I really need to focus on which is how to beat him [Obama]," says Priebus. "And the reason I need to beat him is not because I'm the chairman of the RNC, or because I view this as some partisan endeavor that I'm on. I'm truly concerned about the future direction of our country. I'm very concerned about America. I'm concerned about the idea of America," says Priebus. "Look," he adds of Obama. "He's driving our country off a fiscal cliff, that's what he's doing."

In the interview, Priebus did not mention the current leader of the birther movement, Donald Trump, or anybody else by name. Trump has made headlines with the issue and it's even vaulted him to first in a number of GOP presidential preference polls. Newsmax, for example, has an Internet poll out today that says 57 percent of the 550,000 poll takers favor Trump over any other Republican for the upcoming 2012 GOP primaries. Every other candidate is in single digits. What's more, when asked who they'd vote for if the election were held today. 68 percent chose Trump while just 13 percent chose Obama. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP candidates.]

Those types of polls and Trump's calls for Obama to release his long form birth certificate have become major distractions for the Republican Party as it tries to settle on a presidential frontrunner and duel with Obama over taxes and spending. [Vote now: Is Trump's bitherism just a stunt?]

  • Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the GOP 2012 candidates.
  • Read more about the 2012 presidential race.
  • Vote now: Is Trump's birtherism just a stunt?

  • Corrected on 4/14/11: An earlier version said Reince Priebus had a message for Donald Trump. It was a message for birthers.