Chris Cillizza noted this morning that Rick Perry “is trying to push the ‘reset’ button on a presidential campaign that has faltered badly after a strong start.” That’s clearly true — the Texas governor has a new economic plan, he recently gave a big energy policy speech, he’s hired a team of new advisers, and Perry appears eager to put the recent collapse of his political standing behind him.

But instead of talking about Perry’s comeback strategy, the governor is stepping all over his own message by peddling “Birther” nonsense — again.

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Talking to CNBC’s John Harwood, Perry followed up on his questions about President Obama’s birthplace published in Parade over the weekend, rehashing the issue all over again. Perry told Harwood he’s “not worried” about the president’s birth certificate, but he nevertheless kept talking about it and Obama’s college transcript. “It’s fun,” Perry said, “to poke at him a little bit and say ‘Hey, how about let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.’”

Harwood gave Perry a chance to say he was kidding about all of this, but the governor wants to play both sides here — he’s calling it a “distractive” issue, while deliberately signaling to the right-wing conspiracy theorists that he’s sympathetic to their silliness.

Indeed, Perry said plainly that this is “a good issue to keep alive.”

In other words, there’s an actual strategy here. Perry wants the conspiracy theory to get some additional attention. Instead of having the political world spend the day talking about his economic agenda, he’s inviting observers to keep the Birther nonsense in mind instead.

This makes Perry look like a fool to sensible people everywhere, but all things considered, maybe he doesn’t mind — any serious look at Perry’s tax plan arguably makes him look even worse.

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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.