Stay on the issues, Mitt

TAMPA -- Mitt Romney, desperate to steer clear of distractions, gave himself a good one Friday by stumbling into the toxic brew now known as "birtherism." It followed an unfortunate week in which Missouri Rep. Todd Akin's crazy talk sent Romney and much of the national GOP into emergency ejection mode, insisting Akin drop out of his Senate race, only for him to declare his intentions to stay put and remain a story. It wasn't the only unexpected storm, of course now a hurricane threatens the RNC convention in Tampa. The dissection of Akin's wacko theory of real rape vs. the voluntary kind was likely the last conversation Republicans wanted to have on the eve of the RNC and they are all crossing their fingers and toes in hopes the week unfolds as planned - an opportunity for Romney to introduce himself to nation and those few remaining persuadable voters who could get him elected president. That the candidate would need to muster his sharpest focus and enter a gaffe-free-zone as well goes without saying - but at the wrong moment Romney said two wrong words "birth certificate." For the record, that's one more than Akin said he made, as he apologized only for the qualifier "legitimate" when referring to real rape.

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I know Romney's sometimes awkward stump style, particularly in Michigan where he often talks about how the trees are the right height, is likely - combined with his corny sense of humor - what led him to say of him and his wife, "No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place where both of us were born and raised." But that won't stop the Democrats from fundraising off of it. Romney denied he was birthering, when asked about it on CBS News, saying "this was fun about us, and coming home. And humor, you know - we've got to have a little humor in a campaign."  He insisted it was "not a swipe." The New York Times, nonetheless, found several Romney supporters present at the rally to quote who indeed thought Romney was taking a dig at the President, and his own birth certificate, despite the fact that Romney has said in the past "I think the citizenship test has been passed."

We all know how badly Romney wants to talk about issues, and how much the Democrats will welcome any distractions that take the focus off of the poor economy and the unpopular record of President Obama. As Rick Santorum said unhelpfully this week: "If the campaign is about issues we win. If the campaign is about Mitt Romney's record as a businessman, then we don't win. If it's about Mitt Romney's tax returns, then we don't win. If it's about whether people like Mitt Romney more than Barack Obama, then we don't win."

The convention, delayed one day now because of rain, starts Tuesday. Stay on the issues, Mitt.