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gop 2012

Trump, Pawlenty, and Perry Serve Up the Red Meat at North Carolina Convention

SIOUX CITY, IA - DECEMBER 15:  Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry fields a question during the Fox News Channel debate at the Sioux City Convention Center on December 15, 2011 in Sioux City, Iowa. The GOP contenders are in the final stretch of campaigning in Iowa where the January 3rd caucus is the first test the candidates must face before becoming the Republican presidential nominee.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) Surely you remember this guy?

It's hard to exaggerate how important North Carolina is for President Obama's reelection. The president narrowly took the state in 2008, the first Democratic candidate to do so since Jimmy Carter in 1976, and it remains one of four "pivotal swing states" for him, according to John Heilemann's recent cover story on the Obama campaign brain. That's why this weekend's delegate convention in Greensboro, North Carolina, has been attracting a fair number of GOP heavyweights — a term we are using rather loosely, here — hoping to swing the state back into red country.

On Friday, who else but The Donald was in town to headline the opening dinner. He said:

We really have to do something. We have to do something soon. North Carolina is one of the most, if not the most, important state in terms of who's going to become the president of the United States.

Trump told the assembled crowd, who greeted him with raucous applause, to "fight like hell" to convince their friends and families to vote for Mitt Romney, according to the Greensboro News & Record. "We need a president that has business acumen," he said, and "heart." At least we know on which side of the "Is Mitt Romney a Robot?" debate Trump falls.

Naturally, there was the obligatory Trump birther moment, when he held up a document from 1991 that claims Obama was born in Kenya. (It's likely from the literary agency representing Obama at the time, which advertised him as "born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii" — a partner at the firm has since apologized for making a fact-checking error.) Trump now says he wants to see what Obama put down as his "place of birth" on his college applications, suspecting perhaps a little affirmative action gambit.

The Saturday luncheon welcomed Tim Pawlenty, former presidential candidate himself and chief Romney surrogate, whose rousing speech actually had some members of the audience wishing he'd ended up the nominee — at least one person told Buzzfeed's Zeke Miller that he even outperformed Trump. If nothing else, he's got better speechwriters than Romney, going by these Obama zingers he worked in.

You can’t be pro-jobs and anti-business … that’s like being pro-egg and anti-chicken.

We’ve got to quit running the government as an open bar.

As for Trump's questionable birtherism, Pawlenty effortlessly toed the campaign line that Romney appreciates whatever help Trump can give him but, "that doesn’t mean they're going to agree on everything, but they agree on many things, or most things." He also teased us some more about his vice-presidential ambitions.

I've tried to be consistent about it and say look, I don’t think the best way for me to help Mitt Romney is to be on the VP list. I think I can help him in other ways like this, being a volunteer for his campaign. But obviously anybody would be honored if asked.

Last, but never least, Texas Governor Rick Perry was on hand for last night's dinner, where he drew on the charm that totally evaded him during his disastrous candidacy to attack Obama while self-deprecatingly making fun of himself.

Three and a half years, nearly 100 rounds of golf. Barack Obama has exploded the debt in this country. He has passed a stimulus program that grew government and not the economy. He socialized health care and he armed Mexican drug cartels. Admit it America, 2008 was our national "oops" moment.

It's the closest thing to a weekend stand-up comedy tour.

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Photo: Scott Olson/2011 Getty Images