ROVE TO GOP BASE: IT’S A TRAP…. When a national poll was released this week, showing that a majority of Republican presidential primary voters are “birther” conspiracy theorists, it raised a few eyebrows. After all, this dumb, arguably racist, nonsense is supposed to be confined to the lunatic fringe. Public Policy Polling’s data suggested more than half of the GOP’s most reliable voters have gone mad.

Karl Rove has a theory to explain all of this: the White House set a trap.

“Within our party, we’ve got to be very careful about allowing these people who are the birthers and the 9/11-deniers to get too high a profile and say too much without setting the record straight,” Rove said Wednesday night on Fox News.

“We need the leaders of our party to say, ‘Look, stop falling into the trap of the White House and focus on the real issues,’” he said. […]

Rove said he thinks that the Obama administration relishes the continued existence of the birther movement because it distracts from how the president is handling policy issues. “Look, these guys may be lousy at governing … but they’re damn good at politics,” he said. “It fits into the White House theme line.”

Hmm, damn good at politics, lousy at governing. That’s funny, Karl, I was thinking the same thing about your failed White House.

In any case, Rove comes up with some pretty ridiculous ideas from time to time, but the notion that an unhinged, right-wing conspiracy theory, debunked several years ago and rejected by sane people everywhere, is an elaborate “trap” set by nefarious White House officials, is pretty remarkable.

In some ways this is nearly as twisted as the nonsensical theory itself. Indeed, Rove seems to envision a scheme with layers — the White House has conspired to convince Republicans to see a conspiracy that doesn’t exist. It looks like right-wing activists have been pushing this garbage for years — enough to convince most GOP presidential primary voters — but apparently this is all part of the Obama team’s fiendish plan.

Remember, Karl Rove, who shared this idea on national television, is considered one of the Republican Party’s most credible, strategic minds. It’s quite a party.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.