I hope he doesn’t actually believe that this defense will spare him any grief on the Sunday shows for what he said today. Of course it’s true that he’s not a Birther — Krauthammer made the same point in his defense on Fox News tonight — but that’s not the issue. In their calmer moments, when they’re not busy trying to psych up their base by insisting that Romney’s to the far right of Barry Goldwater, even partisan left-wing media types will acknowledge that he’s essentially a centrist technocrat who’s pandered to conservatives on select issues to win the nomination. And so that’s how they’ll treat this morning’s joke, not as evidence that Romney’s “gone Birther” but as him winking at Birthers because he needs their votes in November. How that makes sense, I’m not quite sure: The inevitable result of telling that joke was that he’ll be asked in his next dozen interviews to affirm his belief that Obama was born in Hawaii, which he’ll dutifully do, which in turn will be a thorn in the side of birth-certificate true believers. He’s better off avoiding this topic entirely and letting their antipathy to Obama push them into his column rather than engage the subject and put himself in a position where he’s forced to repudiate their big theory. But oh well.

Exit question: A friend suggested via e-mail that maybe Romney’s thought here was that it’s worth a weekend of Birther grief to knock Todd Akin off the front page. He’s distracting the media from a more damaging distraction, in other words, by letting them screech tediously about “dog whistles” for awhile instead of focusing on abortion politics. Anyone think that’s true? It’s hard for me to grasp since inevitably the Birther narrative will be combined with the Akin narrative to form a “Romney hates minorities and women” mega-narrative, but maybe I’m missing something.