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Perry dismisses birther comments as distraction

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Just one day after taping an interview in which he called questions about the validity of President Obama's birth certificate "a good issue to keep alive," Gov. Rick Perry dismissed the controversy as a distraction.

"That is one of the biggest distractions that there is going," Perry said at a press conference touting his 20-20 post card plan. "We need to be talking about jobs. If somebody wants to see my birth certificate, I'd be happy to show it to them. But the fact is that is a distraction and Americans really don't care about that, if you wanna know the truth."

He added, "What Americans want to talk about is jobs."

The Texas governor, who has plummeted in polls, sounded optimistic about his chances in the first-in-the-South primary state, where he promised to campaign "in every corner" until the January contest.

"I feel pretty good about the prospects," he said, noting the "pro-military and pro-freedom, patriotic" values of voters in the state.

Despite low poll numbers and the calling in of staff reinforcements, Perry characteristically used a sports metaphor to say that the campaign has not yet run its full course.

"My bet is that when Clemson or South Carolina are at halftime --  you know it doesn't happen very often that they're behind at halftime -- but they're not going to call the game at halftime. So, we're going to continue to be working. You know, we may change defense a little bit. We may call an audible or two. But the fact is it's a long time until this campaign is over with, and we're going to be talking about things like this."

Perry believes that his newly unveiled flat-tax plan will be politically successful, despite the high-profile defeat of one of its backers, Steve Forbes, in 1996.

"I just happen to think that when Americans look at what happened, there's a lot that's changed since 1996 from the standpoint of our tax code in this country," Perry said, adding that financial regulations like Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley, as well as new laws like the Obama-passed health care law, have built public support for reform.

"Let's do it on a post card," Perry declared, brandishing the envelope-sized mock flat-tax form his campaign has distributed today. "Let's do it this way."

About two dozen "Occupy Columbia" protesters attended the press conference in the South Carolina state capitol, but remained mostly quiet. One unidentified member of the audience yelled, "Answer the question!" after Perry's response on the president's birth certificate.

Perry received the endorsement of South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell and met with Gov. Nikki Haley while in Columbia. His next public appearance will be on Friday in New Hampshire.