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Pawlenty Plans Dinner With Sponsor of N.H. Birther Bill

Bill Clark/Roll Call

Likely GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty is set to have dinner in New Hampshire this week with the sponsor of what’s been dubbed the Granite State’s “birther” bill.

The former Minnesota governor, who has been aggressively courting the tea party vote to burnish conservative credentials in recent weeks, will visit New Hampshire again to help boost his standing among the first-in-the-nation primary voters. Pawlenty is scheduled to have dinner Thursday with Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC leader Jerry DeLemus and his wife, Susan DeLemus, a freshman New Hampshire state Representative.

Susan DeLemus is the lead sponsor of a House provision that would require presidential primary candidates to provide birth certificates, in addition to a sworn affidavit that they are at least 35 years old and have lived in the United States for 14 years, as called for in the Constitution to qualify for the presidency.

A House panel voted Wednesday to effectively kill the provision, even after it was amended to take effect after New Hampshire’s 2012 presidential primary.

The bill has been dubbed the “birther bill,” after the conservative activists who continue to question whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States, despite the fact it’s been repeatedly disproved by news outlets.

The DeLemus meeting was reported more than a week ago by Politico, before the New Hampshire measure gained attention. It appears Pawlenty will honor the dinner commitment.

Asked Wednesday afternoon specifically about the meeting with DeLemus, Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant responded: “The governor is meeting with lots of people while he’s in New Hampshire, some public and some private. … As for the bill, the governor hasn’t seen the legislation.”

The issue underscores the political pitfalls associated with Pawlenty’s push to win tea party support. The movement may be popular among the Republican base, but the views of some of its members, such as the “birthers,” can alienate moderate Republicans and independents. 

Pawlenty joked about the “birther” controversy while speaking at a tea party summit in Arizona late last month: “Now, I’m not one who questions the existence of the president’s birth certificate,” he said, repeating a joke he first used at the Conservative Political Action Conference a few weeks earlier. “But when you listen to his policies, don’t you at least wonder what planet he’s from?”

Many New Hampshire Republicans, who have veto-proof majorities in the state House and Senate, are already backing away from the DeLemus proposal.

For more from our At the Races politics blog, click here.

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